WATERLOO REGION — Anti-poverty advocates are continuing their efforts to get free transit access for poor people.
On Wednesday, members of the Alliance Against Poverty appealed to Region of Waterloo councillors to provide free Grand River Transit access to all residents on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
Regan Brusse told council accessible transit is crucial for low-income residents to access everything from social services to job interviews and employment.
"Transportation is so clearly necessary to obtain a viable income. Our public transit system must be affordable to all," she said.
Brusse herself has been on social assistance and pointed out something as simple as getting food from the food bank is a challenge without taking the bus.
"When I'm picking up food for my family of four it can feel like it weighs four tonnes," she said. "I can never walk it home. There's no chance."
This isn't the first time free transit for the poor has been raised at regional council.
Politicians discussed the idea during the 2016 budget process. But the idea hasn't gained much traction.
Regional chair Ken Seiling said part of the issue is money, but the other part is determining which level of government is responsible for income redistribution.
"The question is whose responsibility is it for doing income redistribution and what is fair to people," he said.
The region committed to reviewing all of its affordable transit programs before the 2017 budget.
According to an August report, each month the region provides more than 2,100 bus passes and 9,100 tickets to poor people — an annual cost of about $1.5 million.
A pilot study will grant residents on the wait-list for the region's Transit for Reduced Income Program access to discounted fares.
Approved in August, the study will see staff research the personal, social and economic impacts of more affordable transit on poor people. The region has requested $513,580 in provincial funding for the study. Read the article online here