Getting around the city on Regina transit will soon be a lot easier for those 13 years and younger.
City council last week unanimously approved a change that will come into effect after adjustments are made to the transit fare bylaw.
Up until now, all riders under five were able to ride for free. The decision will cost the city roughly $2,000.
Ward 1 City Coun. Cheryl Stadnichuk said that’s a small price to pay considering how many city residents will benefit from the change.
“The younger you start using transit and get used to it as a mode of transportation, the more likely you are to be a lifelong transit user,” Stadnichuk said.
Meanwhile, a group of Regina youth activists, among them Sophia Young, continue their push for fare-free transit for all those 18 and under.
Young is a member of Regina Energy Transition as well as the climate activist group Friday for Futures Regina.
“Transit is at the heart of everything. Everything you can and cannot do relies on your transit,” said Young, who is going into Grade 12 at Miller Comprehensive High School.
“I know kids who can’t afford the $2.75 to go on the bus so they walk 40 minutes home, some days in the cold winter.”
In fact, during 2023 budget deliberations, city council will be hearing a report from city administration on the options surrounding fare-free transit for those 18 and under.
“If we can provide fare-free transit for those 18 and under, that would be wonderful. At the minimum, I think we have to reduce the cost because the fare is quite high for youth,” Stadnichuk said.
Currently, a transit pass runs high schoolers $64 a month.
Stadnichuk said that if free transit for 18 and under were to become a reality in Regina, it may need financial contributions from the province and school boards.
She mentioned that in some Ontario cities with free transit for 18 and under, the provincial government contributes through a gas tax.
Young said that allowing high school students to ride for free would help with increased ridership goals the city laid out in its Transit Master Plan.
“They had a lot of goals on getting more people to use the bus,” Young said.
“Well, you get kids to start riding when they’re young, they’re more likely to be lifelong riders and because of that they’ll pay back the cost of starting this program now.”
Young said today’s youth could put funds saved from transit costs toward other prospects, like university, trade school or college.
“We understand that there are a lot of constraints around this, especially how much pressure it can put on the bus system. We know it’s probably going to take a while, but we’re going to keep trying to get support for this because of how many people it can potentially help.”