Syrian refugees who are living in Kamloops won’t be getting free transit passes from the City of Kamloops anytime soon. On Tuesday, Coun. Donovan Cavers attempted to get his fellow councillors to agree to provide the passes. But apart from Coun. Denis Walsh, there was no support.
The request, made by Kamloops Immigrant Services, had originally come to council in mid-April. The first time it came to council, nothing happened. At this week’s meeting, Cavers put forward a motion for the city to provide yearly bus passes for 50 Syrian refugees. Only Walsh supported Caver’s motion.
So no transit passes for refugees.
Which brought me to wonder who does and doesn’t get free transit in Kamloops.
As far as I can tell, the more able you are to pay for transit yourself, the more likely it is you will get free transit.
Everybody got free transit to take the bus on the last civic election day in November 2015. Of course not everyone used the service that day, but the opportunity was there. Presumably the transit riders all lived in the cities they were taking the bus for free, but that wasn’t a requirement, nor was it a requirement the riders voted.
At the recent Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships, all the accredited volunteers and officials could take transit for free. Some of them lived in Kamloops, some didn’t. All that mattered was they were part of the championships.
For other athletic events as well, such as Boogie the Bridge and the B.C. Seniors Games, transit is free for the volunteers and/or athletes. Passes are provided for sporting events in Kamloops whether the participants are from Kamloops or out of town. Transit makes it easier for people to get to big events.
B.C. Transit gave two days of free transit travel to all of last year’s high school graduates to launch them into their post high school lives. This makes sense, since at most, most grads would have an N driver’s license, and many would have nothing.
Every Canada Day, transit is free in Kamloops, to Canadians and non-Canadians alike. Then in September, children and their families ride transit for free to and from the Kamloops Art Festival. The transit is available to everyone. Free transit reduces the parking problems in the downtown for these big events.
On New Year’s Eve, transit is free, as part of a strategy to reduce drunk driving. Bar patrons may have spent generously at the bar, but in a bid to keep them from driving, the $2.50 bus fare is waived.
It’s interesting what other cities do for free transit. In the West Kootenays, there is free transit on Earth Day and Prince George provides free transit on bad air days, in a bid to reduce the number of automobiles on the road for those days. Cavers attempted to bring forward a similar program to Kamloops in 2014, but didn’t get support of his fellow councillors.
So if you’re sport or patriotic, if you like to ring in the New Year or go vote, transit in Kamloops is free. But not refugees.
Refugees of course aren’t the only ones shut out of free transit.
If you are disabled in B.C., there is no longer a $45 per year bus pass. In February, the B.C. Liberals clawed back this benefit and replaced it with a pass for $52 per month. The government will argue they increased the disability pension, but at the end of the day, the net to the recipients of disability benefits is $25. The maximum they receive is $906 per month. Whether a refugee or a person with a disability, the monthly support is very low.
So as far as I can tell, if you probably don’t need free transit, there’s a good chance you’ll get it. But, if your circumstances aren’t so good, whether it’s because you’re a refugee or have a disability or something similar, don’t expect a free ride.
— Nancy Bepple is a recovering politician and local news junkie. She expects she will never recover from her love of the banjo.