This week Vancouver City Council will consider a motion to endorse the Centre for Family Equity’s Transit for Teens campaign, which calls on the provincial government to expand free transit to youth ages 13-18. Currently, BC’s Get On Board program allows kids up to age 12 to use all BC transit systems free of charge.
Through our Hot Pink Paper Campaign, we heard that free and accessible transit would be transformative for women, girls and gender-diverse communities. So we asked every councillor before the election if they’d fight for free transit in Metro Vancouver––and they all said yes.
WTC wrote a letter to Vancouver City Council and the Mayor reminding them of this commitment and urging them to use their roles as elected officials to push the province to expand free transit.
We urge you to read our letter below, sign the Transit for Teens petition letter here, and share your transit story with us on social media.
June 8, 2023
Re: Endorsing the Transit for Teens Campaign to Extend BC's Get On Board Program Up to Age 18
Dear Mayor and Council,
Women Transforming Cities (WTC) is writing to urge you to endorse the Transit for Teens campaign calling on the provincial government to expand access to free transit in BC for youth ages 13-18. BC’s current Get on Board program allows kids 12 and under to ride the bus for free, but on their 13th birthday youth are required to pay the fare.
The cost of living crisis is hitting youth hard, especially for teens from lone-parent households living below the poverty line. Being a teenager is challenging enough as it is. Families should not have to decide between getting their kids to school or getting their prescriptions filled.
We know that you share our enthusiasm for free transit as a solution. Through our Hot Pink Paper campaign, each of you committed to “advocate to TransLink and the Province to work towards free or reduced fare transit for people on low incomes in Metro Vancouver, and identify opportunities to increase transit affordability in Vancouver.” Endorsing the Transit for Teens campaign is an immediate way to follow through on this commitment.
It will also show that Vancouver is still a leader in advancing bold policy innovations to mitigate barriers for low-income residents and take positive action toward disability, racial, poverty, and climate justice. The Transit for Teens campaign stems from a made-in-Vancouver pilot project that provided free transit for low-income residents. By compiling data from the parents of youth participants, the Centre for Family Equity (formerly Single Mother’s Alliance) found that free transit for youth:
Increases access to education, employment and recreation. Pilot participants said the program allowed them to get to work, school and after-school activities without worrying if they’d be able to afford transportation. Participants were also able to visit more greenspaces and community centre programming.
Improves uptake of mental health supports. When transit fare was not a barrier, parents said their kids accessed more mental health services such as counselling, leading to an improvement in well-being.
Promotes social connection and inclusion. Youth feel judged when they are unable to afford transit. During the pilot, youth felt a greater sense of inclusion and belonging, as they were able to visit places and people beyond their immediate surroundings. Parents said this helped build confidence to explore new areas and opportunities.
Allows families to thrive. The pilot enabled parents to save on transit and spend more on basic necessities like medicine and groceries, including purchasing more and better quality food. It also freed up more money for family outings and activities.
Enhances safety. Parents said they experienced a sense of relief knowing their kids could get home safely at night.
Expanding the Get on Board program up to the age of 18 will have transformative impacts on low-income families in Vancouver and beyond. We urge you to endorse the Transit for Teens campaign and send a message to the Province that the City of Vancouver believes no youth should be left behind because they can’t afford transit fare.
Ash Peplow Ball
Women Transforming Cities
*The cover image was taken from the City of Vancouver website.