Free transit for kids could create new generation of adult riders: local councillor

It is an idea meant to encourage more teenagers to take transit both in the short and long-term.

New Westminster City Councillor Patrick Johnstone feels giving kids free rides on public transit is the way to go. The idea is that cutting the fare would encourage more kids to take transit now.

He says the practice is being considered in other jurisdictions. “We want to [give them an incentive for using] public transit when they’re young so that it normalizes their transit experience and gets them used to using that as a way to get around town,” explains Johnstone.

He admits such a move will likely cut into revenue in the short-term, but would have a positive impact long-term. “By normalizing the use of transit, what you are going to end up doing is pushing revenue in the future. You’re going to be creating a generation of kids who use transit.”

And that creates users for life. “And when they grow up to be adults, they are going to see transit as a viable alternative and it will eventually lead to an increase in revenue. But I don’t think in the short-term it’s going to save TransLink money, I think it is going to cost a little bit. But good public policy often costs a bit of money,” says Johnstone.

Exactly what age you’d be able to ride for free until is up for debate. “I think that’s where the most interesting debate is. Some people have suggested 12 like Toronto. Some people think 15… at the age when you start actually going out and working is an age when you could do the cut-off,” says Johnstone.

He expects the move would create a whole new generation of transit riders.