Free Bus Rides Could Cost Taxpayers Millions
City Staff Advises Against Complimentary Bus Services for Seniors and High School Students
City officials are cautioning council against offering free bus rides to high school students and seniors. This recommendation comes after an in-depth analysis of the financial implications of such a move.
The report, released this past Friday, outlines that providing free bus rides to these groups could lead to a significant financial burden for the city. Specifically, the city could face a loss of approximately $950,000 in annual fare revenue. Additionally, there would be over $1 million in extra yearly operating costs. The city would also need to invest around $4.2 million to purchase three new buses to handle the increased demand during peak hours.
The report further states that offering free rides to high school students would necessitate the addition of about three more buses and six operators. This would also increase fuel and maintenance costs. It’s worth noting that three out of the seven high school bus routes are already operating at full capacity during peak times.
Instead of offering free rides, city staff suggests two alternative strategies. First, they recommend expanding the existing affordable bus pass program and introducing fare capping for more users. Second, they propose establishing a formal approval process to assist students in financial need to access the affordable bus pass program.
No Additional Costs for Alternatives
The report emphasizes that these alternative measures would not incur any extra financial costs for the city. These suggestions aim to make transit more accessible for high school students and seniors without straining the city’s budget.
Council’s Previous Directives
Earlier this year, in April, city council had directed staff to explore the possibility of making bus rides free for seniors and high school students. This was part of the council’s broader strategy to make public transit more affordable. During that meeting, council had approved several programs to reduce the cost of bus rides for children and those in financial need.
Among the approved strategies were making the affordable pass program permanent with a sliding scale of monthly pass costs between $4 and $32. Council also made permanent the program that allows children aged 12 and under to ride for free. Additionally, a fare-capping program was introduced to help monthly pass holders save money if they ride less frequently.