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The Waiting Game: Transit for Reduced Income Program

“The $79 I spend on a bus pass wouldn’t buy that much groceries over a month, so transit is vital,” Suter said.

“They definitely need to expand the program. There is all kinds of people in my situation who simply don’t take transit now because they can’t afford to.”

On paper, he said, it seems like the region is losing money from fares, but he feels the program should be expanded because some buses are not even half full.

“It’s not really a cost. On paper it’s this much revenue, but they actually won’t [lose money],” he said.

Instead of having people pay a reduced rate, Suter believes the program should be tied to income, especially for seniors.

“Even the reduced passes are too much money for people,” he said.

TRIP was initiated back in 2001 and is administered through Lutherwood in Cambridge and Kitchener’s Working Centre.

Currently there are about 1,800 passes in the system, which costs the Region of Waterloo about $407,000 per year. Eligibility is based on an income cutoff.

Although the passes are subsidized, there’s still a cost.

As of July 1, of this year, a regular adult transit pass costs $79. A reduced pass, which was not increased this year, costs $42.

According to Curt Shoemaker, manager of quality assurance for the region, there has always been a waiting list for the program and the wait averages about a year.

And sometimes, even when people finally get to the top of the list, the cost is still too much.

“They genuinely want a bus pass, but it’s too much money, so they find it very difficult — even at a reduced rate — it’s too much to juggle,” Shoemaker said.

“People are making really hard choices here.”

Currently there are about 518 people on the waiting list and it’s broken into two different lists, those with employment and those without. No set number of passes is reserved for either category.

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