SCRD abandons effort to cut youth fares by end of year

Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors are no longer seeking to implement free or cheaper youth fare and family passes for the Sunshine Coast transit system by the end of 2019 and instead are looking to the end of the school year.

“It’s going be status quo until we get the next report in January and we’ll see where it goes from there,” SCRD chair Lori Pratt said following a special infrastructure services committee meeting on Tuesday focused on the issue. “Hopefully before the end of the school year … but we’ll see how the numbers pan out.”

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Free youth transit “would have substantial financial implications,” according to an SCRD staff report.

BC Transit estimates that free passes for youth aged 18 and under would result in a 23 per cent reduction in revenue – about $175,000 – and up to an 11 per cent cost increase – $398,000. The projected increase in ridership associated with the options presented, including free fares, is also expected “to put additional pressure on the systems, especially during peak times,” the SCRD staff report said.

At the meeting, BC Transit officials presented options from a funding review while 

students and a representative from alternative transportation group Transportation Choices Sunshine Coast (TraC) spoke in favour of reduced or free transit fares for youth.

Directors shied away from the recommendations by staff and BC Transit that would move towards implementing free fares in 2021, and voted for a report to be brought back in January “regarding a youth transit fare program based on a nominal fee structure and options for implementation, including proposed timelines.”

“The board really wants to see this move faster and see something implemented earlier than 2021,” Pratt told Coast Reporter.

They also passed a motion for staff to assess the demand for youth transit on the Sunshine Coast.

While a petition with more than 350 students was submitted at the meeting, Pratt said it still wasn’t clear how many of the students on the Coast would “need and use transit on a regular basis.”

This isn’t the first time youth fares have been considered. In 2014 SCRD directors decided against proceeding with free student bus passes after staff warned it would result in an 11 per cent reduction in fare revenue.

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