Accessible transit pilot to start testing in Vancouver

Vancouver will begin a pilot that offers accessible transit to low-income individuals in 2021

Platform level fare gates at New Westminster station in New Westminster, British Columbia. (wiki.commons)

Vancouver city council has approved a grant fund that enables them to create a “poverty reduction pilots” for the city. The funds are provided by the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) and the city of Vancouver has been given $50,000.

The purpose of the UBCM funds is to create “poverty reduction pilots” for municipalities across the province. Similarly, Vancouver will begin a “transit pilot” that is affordable for low-income individuals.

The pilot is based on the #AllOnBoard campaign, which looks into “affordable and accessible” transportation for low-income individuals around the province. They want to make sure communities around B.C. have accessible transit to “live, work and thrive.”

The campaign advocates for stopping the ticketing of minors for not having a bus pass. Instead, they are advocating for “free transit for all children and youth 0-18.” The campaign page also mentions alternative approaches for adults who get ticketed. These measures include community service and restorative justice options.

Viveca Ellis, Interim Community Organizer for the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, says the affordable transit pilot program can impact transit policies around the province.

“We have heard from many community members for many years now that lack of access to transit is an impediment to thriving, to accessing the labour market and accessing food security,” Ellis says.

Ellis says when it comes to low-income children and youth, having affordable transit helps their access to schools and after curricular activities.

“When people can’t get where they need to go, and they have to ration bus tickets…they are held back in so many ways,” she says.

Ellis says this affordable transit pilot opportunity can be used to introduce policies that jurisdictions around the world already have including Toronto, Calgary, and Seattle.

“This has the potential to look at the implementation of broader policy that we know can have an impact on hundreds and thousands of British Columbians throughout the province,” she says.

“We advocate for Vancouver to share with other municipalities the value of a pilot project, and for other municipalities to also join the pilot, add funding to make it a larger pilot for all of Metro Vancouver,” Ellis says.

She also says TransLink partnering on the pilot is an opportunity for more municipalities to join in.

“We’re looking forward to having an opportunity to really study and look at the impact of affordable transit on the lives of people living below the poverty line in Vancouver,” Ellis says.

The project is set to begin in January 2021, while keeping track of the potential second wave of COVID-19.

Along with the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and TransLink, Simon Fraser Community Engaged Research and Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council will also work on the project.

The Vancouver city manager commented on the project, saying, “The partnership with UBCM will help [the city] explore the impacts of reducing barriers to transit for those living in poverty.”