Should kids get a free ride when it comes to the bus?
The idea is under consideration for the City of Chilliwack as a way to encourage alternative modes of transportation and get young people used to what can be an intimidating way of getting around for those unfamiliar.
“It seems pretty easy, but I think the first time a kid gets on a bus is pretty intimidating,” Coun. Jeff Shields said at the Aug. 6 city council meeting. “This a way get them into using that alternative type of transportation.”
Shields pointed out that using transit is second nature for most young people who grew up in major centres like Vancouver or Toronto.
“A kid who grows up in downtown Chilliwack, they really have no idea how to use a bus system.”
Shields is chair of the city’s Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) that discussed the idea of free transit for youth at its June 20 meeting, the minutes of which were on the agenda at the Aug. 6 meeting. It was at the June meeting where Coun. Shields shared with the committee information gleaned from a recent Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference he attended in Quebec.
The city of Kingston, Ont., started a transit high school bus pass project to encourage youth to get to school, work and recreation. That city also has a introduced a transit orientation program for youth to teach them about the cost savings compared to operating a vehicle.
A few communities in B.C. have implemented free transit for youth pilot projects, including Victoria which gives passes to those 18 and under in the Greater Victoria area.
Minutes from the June meeting show that a BC Transit representative, Lisa Trotter, who sits on the committee talked also about an outreach program to schools called “Kids Ride the Bus.”
The free transit for youth idea is a new one even in Victoria and it’s set to launch in September. Trotter told the committee she would bring back results of the pilot project’s first quarter results to the TAC in 2020.
At the Aug. 6 meeting, council endorsed the TAC’s recommendation to request BC Transit provide options and analysis for a seasonal and year-round youth free transit pilot and for staff to prepare a report to council.