Free bus fare for youth continued as a topic of conversation with City of Powell River councillors, who were urged to join a campaign sponsored by the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition.
At the committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, December 3, councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said she would like the city to endorse the #AllOnBoard campaign. She said four members of the city’s youth council, along with herself and councillor Rob Southcott, and members of Students for Change and the Brooks Secondary School environment club met with School District 47 trustees regarding busing.
Leishman said a letter had been received from the school district indicating it supports the campaign.
“We thank them profusely for joining onto this campaign, which is basically a campaign through the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition advocating for free transit for youth,” said Leishman. “It’s a good campaign.”
The school district letter states that the campaign is aimed at providing free bus fare in Powell River to children up to the age of 18 and for the cost of monthly passes to be on a sliding scale based on family income.
“Our board is taking the lead from our youth who have brought this issue to our attention,” the letter stated. “It is our hope that the city can endorse this campaign and work with other levels of governments and the transit authorities to make this a reality in Powell River.”
Mayor Dave Formosa said this is an extension of what the city has been doing regarding busing for young people. His said his question is: “When it comes down to it and the costs come in, is the city sharing costs with the school district?” He said he’d be happy to vote in favour of splitting the cost with the school district and if they decide not to, the city can look at it again.
“The question needs to be asked of them,” he added.
Councillor Maggie Hathaway said she also wondered if costs would be shared. She said she agrees with the program but costs needed to be looked at to determine if the city can afford it.
Councillor George Doubt said the letter was indicating the school district was asking the city to let them know how the city would like them to participate in the program. He said he thinks the city should reply and thank the school district for its interest.
“I know the youth council has talked to them about free bus passes,” said Doubt. He added that qathet Regional District has a committee looking at transportation and the letter could also be referred to that committee as well so they can discuss it.
Doubt said that hopefully the #AllOnBoard campaign has some funding so the school district can access that to offset the cost of free bus passes for students.
“There’s more work to do but I encourage them to participate in the funding and the organization of the whole thing,” added Doubt.
Councillor Jim Palm said hopefully, the school district would apply to the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and take a lead on spearheading the initiative with a letter of support from the city.
Leishman said the #AllOnBoard campaign is an advocacy piece and there is no funding from it.
“It’s the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition basically advocating for BC Transit and the province to move towards this,” said Leishman. “Us signing onto this is really just an advocacy piece and showing our joint advocacy with this school district.”
Formosa said perhaps the committee could give unanimous consent to send a letter of support as requested by the school district.
“We’ll continue trying to help those students locally as we have in the past,” said Formosa. “In the past we have borne the cost and we did it happily, helping students in need, but in the meantime, we can carry on and ask if the school district would like to join us. I’d be happy to sign this on behalf of everyone. I support helping students get to school without more burdens.”
The committee gave assent to send a letter of support.