Passengers wait to board a bus at Surrey Central Station.

Passengers wait to board a bus at Surrey Central Station.

Keep free transit trips for homeless, TransLink urged

Compass cards, fare gates pose social service challenge

TransLink is being urged to ensure homeless people continue to get free use of the transit system for certain trips after the new Compass smart card and fare gates are launched this fall.

Advocacy groups across Metro Vancouver have long distributed single-use transit tickets to ensure homeless clients can get transportation to a shelter when needed, or to key appointments, such as for medical care and job interviews.

Money to buy those FareSaver tickets comes from the provincial government via B.C. Housing.

But Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs wants TransLink to ensure some replacement system is in place once fare gates take effect and old ticket types are phased out.

“It will be a lot harder to get on SkyTrain and the Canada Line with fare gates,” he said. “People are going to need some kind of card to get through the gate.”

Meggs said homeless people may simply be able to board a bus without paying or showing any ticket – as many do already – but he argues they shouldn’t have to endure being treated as fare evaders.

“This is about replacing an existing service,” Meggs stressed. “These are specific trips paid for by the province for reasons determined valid by a service provider.”

Meggs hasn’t proposed giving the homeless free transit passes, although he said he’s willing to separately consider the merits of that as well, noting transit fares are a major obstacle for homeless people trying to look for work.

He said transit is a way to level the playing field across income groups.

But Meggs has heard from plenty of critics angry with any talk of transit subsidies or free rides for some.

“It’s getting tangled up in the fare evasion issue and the discomfort some people feel in providing any assistance to the homeless,” he said.

TransLink spokesperson Jiana Ling said talks are underway with community partners to find a solution that keeps transit accessible to vulnerable people, such as the homeless.

“We’re still in talks about how to approach this,” Ling said, adding TransLink is committed to treating customers “with dignity and respect.”

Under the new system, passengers will tap Compass cards against readers at each end of a transit trip and their account will be debited accordingly.

Ling said passengers who don’t have a regular Compass card will be able to use cash to buy a cardboard version of the card valid for a single day only on buses and at stations.

Also up in the air is a provincially subsidized transit program for 86,000 low-income seniors and people on disability assistance – they can buy an annual transit pass good anywhere in B.C. for $45 a year.

Ling said TransLink hopes to accommodate that program through the Compass card system, but offered no specifics.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman said it’s fair to continue to provide free trips for the homeless to reach shelter, health and job appointments.

“Obviously you want to be sensitive to lower-income people and be as helpful as possible,” he said.

The key issue, Bateman said, is to ensure any new passes for the homeless get used by the intended clients and aren’t resold on the black market, as happened in the past with student U-Passes.

“It surprises me that TransLink wouldn’t have figured these issues out already.”

Just Posted

Jack and Arleen Mar celebrated their wedding 60 years ago. (Contributed photo)
White Rock couple celebrates 60 years of marriage

‘Listen to your wife,’ Jack Mar offered as advice to newlyweds

A cache of 89 crabs was discovered during a 2018 compliance inspection at South Surrey’s Elgin Park Marina. (Contributed photo)
$7,500 fine for illegal crab harvest discovered in South Surrey

Laird Goddyn found guilty in Surrey Provincial Court following 2018 investigation

Fraser Health held a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib in Surrey on Friday, May 7, 2021. Roughly 400 people pre-registered to get their vaccine the week before. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Fraser Health to host 32-hour ‘Vax-A-Thon’ in Surrey

It will start June 19 at 11 a.m. and run until June 20 at 7 p.m.

South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course – a 15-acre property that also includes a residence – has been sold. (Colliers Canada photo)
South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course sold to new owners

Deal for popular par 3 course expected to close by end of the year

Gerry Vowles (left), Michael Cook, and Dave Sinclair were awarded “Dominion Command Presidential Citations” June 17 in Cloverdale. The rare awards were given out for “exemplary service to the Legion.” (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Three B.C. legionnaires awarded ‘Presidential Citations’

Ceremony took place in Cloverdale June 17

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read