July 25, 2019 6:01 pm

Halifax Transit’s fare for seniors could stick around, children 12 and under could ride for free

A new staff report suggested there was no need for seniors tickets in Halifax Transit fares. But as Alicia Draus, the Transportation Standing Committee voted to keep the fare.

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Halifax’s Transportation Standing Committee has played around with some of the changes planned for Halifax Transit fares, but the council will still have to approve the modifications before they come into effect.

As part of the 2019/2020 budget, Halifax Regional Council approved a $.25 increase to Halifax Transit’s fare.

At the time, specifics of the rollout were not in place. A staff report recommended that in addition to the fare increase, Halifax Transit change its fare structure.

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Among the recommendations was a proposal to eliminate the seniors’ bus fare, making seniors pay the adult fare.

Another proposal would change the age range for children who ride from four and under, to twelve and under.

While allowing more children to ride for free would cost about $600,000 a year, the cost was expected to be offset by the elimination of the senior’s fare.

At the Transportation Standing Committee on Thursday, District 7 Councillor Waye Mason raised concerns about eliminating the senior’s fare, as the fare hike would be significant for that demographic, with a monthly bus pass jumping from $58 to $82.50.

The staff report stated that Halifax’s low-income bus pass program could accommodate low-income seniors and because a 2011 National Household Survey found income was rising where the primary household maintainer is 65 years or older, most seniors should be able to afford the adult fare.

But Mason suggested that may not be true for all seniors who use public transit.

“The first thing is to determine who our riders are and then find out what their needs are and look at a broader definition of what we mean by low income,” said Mason.

“Right now, it’s people below the low-income cutoff, that’s about 2.5 per cent of seniors if you look at other measures it could be 10 per cent of seniors.”

He proposed an amendment that they retain the senior’s fare and request a supplementary report for a detailed study on income levels of seniors who are regular bus users, the cost of a free transit for seniors program and the cost of increasing the fare while adopting an enhanced seniors low-income pass program.

The amendment passed unanimously.

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The Transportation Standing Committee also voted in favour of changing the age range of children who ride free with an amendment to identify funding for the pilot program as it will no longer be offset by the elimination of the seniors’ fare.

The 25 cent increase to bus fare is set to take effect at the end of September but regional council will still need to vote on the changes to the fare structure, which also includes raising the fare for the bus to the airport from $3.50 to $6.

The debate is expected to take place at their August 13 meeting.

At that time, council will also be voting on whether staff should conduct a study to evaluate implementing a fee to park & ride lots, a motion that was also voted in favour of at the Transportation Standing Committee.

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