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Halifax transit now free for children 12 and under

Change will provide more freedom for lower and middle class families, say advocates

2 min read
caption Public transit in Halifax is now free for children 12 and under.
Darrell Roberts

Halifax family and environmental organizations are welcoming a new bylaw that makes public transit free for children 12 and under.

The fare change began as a pilot project in September 2019 which was extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pilot project saw a significant increase in riders 12 years and under. A staff report conservatively estimated that children took an additional 500 trips per day. Now, council has made the change permanent.

“I’m really glad to see this here,” Coun. Waye Mason said during the second reading of the bylaw at the Halifax regional council meeting on Tuesday. “This plays into what we’ve already been doing with low income passes and passes for those who are on income assistance.”

Beneficial for families

Jonathan Leard is the executive director of service delivery for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Halifax. In an interview, Leard said that free transit for children 12 and under will be beneficial for families, volunteers, and the program as a whole.

“Especially low and middle income families who don’t always have access to a vehicle or a second vehicle, relying on transit, having that option to bring their children along at no extra cost will certainly be a benefit,” Leard said.

A January 2020 Talk Transit survey found strong support for free public transit for children. Respondents commented that free transit for children helped with budgeting and planning family outings.

Normalizing public transit

Ben Hammer, the transportation officer with Ecology Action Centre, said this change will positively impact families who travel by bus as well as public transit as a whole.

“Anything that makes sustainable transportation more accessible and usable to more people is a win,” Hammer said in an interview.

In the Talk Transit survey, many respondents felt that free public transit would encourage a lifelong habit of ridership.

Hammer agreed, noting that free transit fares for children 12 and under could help destigmatize public transportation from a young age. He also said he’d to see council go even further and make public transit free for youth ages 13-17.

“One of the positive impacts I found noteworthy was the increase in spontaneous or unplanned trips. There are so many adventures that await when you don’t have that barrier of having to have fare on you.”

The bylaw also directs staff to prepare a report about discounting bulk purchases of tickets, a frequent request by promotional events and non-profit organizations.

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About the author

Darrell Roberts

Darrell Roberts is a student journalist from St. John's. He enjoys reading and writing about the latest in culture and politics.

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