SHOULD KAMLOOPS’ SENIORS ride transit buses for free during non-peak hours? That’s what was debated by council at Tuesday’s (June 11, 2019) meeting.
The motion wasn’t brought forward by any of our currently elected council members. Instead, it was one of 11 motions former councillor Donovan Cavers put forward at his last council meeting at the end of 2018. Even though he’s been gone from Kamloops City Council for over a half a year, Cavers continues to spur debate around the council table.
Cavers’ argument, which was taken up by current councillor Denis Walsh, is that the buses have capacity in non-peak hours and seniors have earned the privilege of free transit. Hence, through his surrogate Walsh, Cavers argued if the buses are empty, we might as well let seniors use the buses for free.
Council was not convinced of Cavers’ sentiment, but in the end, the motion was punted to staff to get more information before a decision is made.
In the meantime, a far bigger issue, and one which affects us all, is being ignored.
It’s time to give all school-aged students free transit.
That’s just what the City of Victoria did this week. Kudos to them for making a decision that helps students, parents and their whole community.
Numerous surveys have found that between 50 and 75 per cent of school-aged students are driven to school. One doesn’t need surveys to know that there is major road congestion around all the schools in Kamloops at the start and end of school days.
Drive along Columbia Street any weekday morning, and it is backed up from 6thto 12th Avenue with parents going to the South Kamloops Secondary School, Kamloops School of the Arts, and Lloyd George Elementary. Similar congestion happens all over town.
Everyone who has to drive anywhere pays the price with the additional traffic on the roads of parents shuttling children to and from school. We all wait longer at lights. Traffic moves more slowly. There are more greenhouse emissions, too.
We all notice how much easier traffic is when there is a pro-D day, and there is no school on a Monday or Friday.
Easing traffic congestions would be reason enough to let school-aged students take the bus for free.
We already know that students with free bus passes use the bus. For example, secondary students may take BC Transit School Specials instead of a school bus to get to school. However, this service is only available to students going to a school in their catchment area.
Therefore, a high school student in the catchment area of South Kamloops Secondary School who is 4.8 km from school can take a school bus, or a BC Transit School Special bus to school for free.
But if the student is closer than 4.8 km, they can’t. And if they go to a school outside their catchment, such as NorKam, or attend a school of choice, such as Kamloops School of the Arts, they don’t qualify for busing. These students don’t qualify for a school bus, or a BC Transit School Special.
We have all seen School Special buses packed with students. Students who are offered this service use it. Free BC Transit should be available to all school-aged students.
Free transit gives youth an opportunity to learn how to use transit. It’s healthy too. There is a strong correlation between taking transit and reducing obesity. Taking transit is part of a more active lifestyle.
Without free transit for all school-aged students, we all pay. Parents spend hours every day driving their kids to and from school. Youth don’t get as much exercise. We all sit in traffic longer and longer every year.
It’s time to follow Victoria’s lead and focus on transit solutions that solve problems. It’s time we fund school-aged student transit.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.