Halifax proposing to make buses free for kids, but hike rates for seniors
A senior riding a Halifax Transit bus pays $1.75, but there was a plan for that to go up a full dollar in the fall. In exchange, kids under 12 would be able to ride for free.
The proposal is not going over well with some seniors.
"These are seniors," said Roy Latter. "They should get the discount, not the kids."
Another senior, Robert Young, said a hike of that size makes a difference for someone on a fixed income.
"You'd be surprised," he said. "That really affects people a lot. I know it affects me."
The rate hike was presented to Halifax's transportation standing committee Thursday.
One rationale for the increase was seniors don't need the discount they once did.
A staff report suggested that the fare increase could be manageable because "there are less and less seniors in a financially vulnerable position."
But some say that's an urban myth.
"We have an older population than anyone else, and to use that kind of broad brush that says seniors have better income is just not true," said Bill VanGorder of CARP Nova Scotia, a group for retired individuals.
He says an increase to transit fares will hurt the most vulnerable.
"We have more seniors living on low income in Nova Scotia than any other province in Canada," VanGorder says. "And they're the ones we're talking about taking the buses. It's not rich seniors who ride the buses."
VanGorder is happy the motion was amended so a senior fare would increase by just twenty five cents in the fall.
Coun. Waye Mason proposed the amendment to raise the price by just a quarter.
He says with transit, he'd like to see more changes, but they need to happen slowly.
"In the next five years, I'd like to get us to a point where it's not just children under 12 riding the bus for free, but people under 18 riding the bus for free," Mason said. "So you slowly whittle away at it over time rather than doing the jump and having to find $35 million dollars to fill the whole that fares used to fill."
The motion, with some key amendments, passed through the transportation committee, but it still needs to be debated at a regular council meeting.
That won't happen until August, but if everything goes through that meeting, we could see the transit fare increases in September.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Emily Baron Cadloff.