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Free transit worth the cost?

Council will look at whether any form of free transit can be offered on a regular basis in Kamloops.
December 17, 2014 - 2:47 PM

COUNCIL WORKSHOP TO DISCUSS OPTIONS

KAMLOOPS - Transit is a topic that gets a lot of discussion around the table at City Hall, and rightfully so. Taxpayers subsidize a portion of the public transportation and council plans to again explore whether any form of free transit can be offered and how much is too much for taxpayers.

On Tuesday Rick Turner of the Kamloops Health Coalition asked council for free transit, especially for seniors, and Coun. Donovan Cavers asked council to support free transit on bad air days. These two items led to a lot of discussion Tuesday afternoon but with council unable to come to a clear consensus on how to approach either idea it was agreed all avenues would be explored at a transit workshop in early 2015.

“The bottom line is the numbers are the numbers,” Mayor Peter Milobar said. “How much do we want taxpayers to subsidize the fare box?”

The cost to run transit in Kamloops for 2015 will be just over $16 million and will cost the city about $5.2 million. The province contributes $6.86 million and the rest is offset by revenues from cash fares, tickets and passes.

“Many cities in the world have free public transit in order to lessen congestion in downtown areas, lessen demand for parking in the downtown core, and improve the quality of the air citizens have to breathe,” Turner said in a letter to council. “At the least please consider some free public transit such as during non-rush hours or on particular days of the week.”

Turner also pointed to the pollution from private vehicles and how offering free transit to seniors could offer economic benefits to local retailers as well.

The city already offers free transit on days of large celebrations, such as Canada Day, but has also offered it to groups or delegations in town for tournaments or meetings and this year also offered it on election day.

In the end council was not willing to support the one-year pilot project proposed by Cavers but did agree to discuss all the free or discounted fare options, along with fare increases, at workshop in March.

During budget discussions earlier this year council also agreed to increasing the number of hours and adding several new buses to the local transit service in September 2015 and at the time also agreed to look at fare increases in conjunction with the increased service level.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infonews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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