Transit fare changes overlook some seniors, advocate says

Lower-income seniors may be hurt by change to ticket system

B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie says BC Transit’s latest fare structure changes may cost lower-income seniors.

Victoria Transit Commission’s newest fare structure was well received from most, but overlooked seniors, according to Isobel Mackenzie, BC Seniors’ Advocate.

Overall, the commission decided to keep single fare fees at $2.50, though one option was to raise them to $3. It also removed the transfer, but kept the cost of a day pass at $5.

It will also discontinue the sale of discount ticket books to youth and seniors (up to 18 and older than 65) purchased in sheets of 10 for $15, and the six- and 12-month youth passes.

The new structure takes effect April 1 and lasts three years.

“Given the timing and the information in front of them, I think the (transit) commission made the best decision that they could to support seniors,” Mackenzie said in a statement.

Currently, only seniors with an income less than $17,280 are eligible for B.C. Transit’s Guaranteed Income Supplement, which costs $45 annually.

But many Greater Victoria seniors live at an income level that isn’t much higher than that.

“My concern is that if your income is just one dollar over the threshold, a senior immediately must pay the cost of the existing monthly bus pass, which at current prices, translates to $540 yearly, and that is quite a gap,” Mackenzie said.

Instead, Mackenzie is hoping for a more progressive approach.

Saanich Coun. Susan Brice, who chairs the transit commission, said if the commission is going to create a ticket option based on financial thresholds it will likely look beyond seniors.

“I would think over the next three years there’s a number of things, a lot of riders regardless of age with financial challenges, we may need an even broader picture.”

Some critics have also expressed concern with the cost of a day-pass, in place of a transfer, doubling the cost of a one-way trip. Though it isn’t a great portion of bus users, there are people who will now be forced to buy a day pass simply because they are on a one-way trip that transfers buses.