The B.C. government has opted to move forward with a plan similar to what the City of Salmon Arm has been doing since 2006.
As part of its 2021 budget unveiled on April 20, the provincial government announced a free transit plan for kids 12 and under, coming into effect in September.
It will apply to any public transit system in B.C., including TransLink, HandyDart and BC Transit. Previously, both transit agencies had allowed children up to four or five years to ride for free.
Back in 2006, when Salmon Arm Coun. Chad Eliason was in his first year as a newly elected municipal politician, he introduced a plan to offer free transit to people up to 18 years. Mayor and council agreed, so it was put in place that year and has been since.
Eliason recounts that when he was attending the University of Victoria there was a similar system in place: everyone with a student card would get a free transit pass.
“When I came back to Salmon Arm I noticed there were no kids riding the bus.”
Eliason said the Salmon Arm program, which is in effect only for school holidays and other holidays as routes shut down by about 6 p.m, cost the city approximately $700 in lost revenue that first year.
The idea was to cut down on vehicle traffic and emissions, to help out parents who were driving their kids, and to help youths be more self-sufficient and save their money.
Since 2006, other promotions in B.C. have sprung up.
He said BC Transit did an ‘I love the bus’ promo in the Lower Mainland, Squamish introduced a promo whereby anyone who had a reusable shopping bag could ride for free, and last year Victoria invited youth 18 and under to apply for a free bus pass.
Eliason would like to see the B.C. government go further.
“The province has only gone 12 and under and I’m not sure of their rationale. I don’t think they went quite far enough; I think they should have gone 18 and under.”
However, he added: “I’m just happy that they’ve done it.”