Transportation

Halifax Transit makes low-income bus passes permanent

Transit just got cheaper for those who need it

Searching for $2.50 to take the bus could be a thing of the past for some Halifax residents.   Diana Foxall

Public transportation just became cheaper for some Haligonians.

Halifax Transit announced a permanent low-income transit pass program on Wednesday.

Halifax Transit supervisor Erin Harrison says the program benefits those who would otherwise struggle to afford monthly transit passes, “and being able to reduce the cost of a monthly transit pass means that maybe they’re able to participate in their communities a little bit more than they would.”

The plan offers Halifax residents with an annual household income of less than $33,000 a 50 per cent reduction on monthly passes, as long as they are not receiving income assistance or already being reimbursed for transportation by the provincial government.

The municipality has been running a pilot program since September 2016, which had 500 participants registered. In July 2017, the program will officially become permanent. It will also grow to support 1,000 residents.

Harrison says the doubling of the program’s capacity will ensure that all Haligonians who qualify for the program receive the reduced-fare pass.

“I highly doubt we will be turning people who are eligible away,“ she says.

Jeffrey Blair of transit advocacy group It’s More Than Buses is pleased to see the program continue.

“People who have financial difficulties, people with disabilities, people from marginalized communities – those are generally the people who are most affected by this program,” he says. “And so having a program in place that ensures that people get transit based on need is something that’s really important.”

Blair says the cheaper passes are helpful, but that having effective transit routes is just as important.

“Not only do we have to make sure transit is affordable, we also need to make sure it goes where people need transit to go,” he says.

A survey done by Halifax Transit of participants showed that all individuals contacted said they would reapply for the permanent version when it begins in July.

“It was a great program; I struggle every month to get around. It definitely helped me,” one respondent said.

“People are really appreciative of the program, and it’s made an impact in their lives,” says Harrison.

Applications for the July start date are being accepted from May 8 onward, and the program’s participants will need to reapply each year to ensure that they are meeting the criteria for the pass.