Welcome to London Civic Watch

"Ever wonder if City Council is as contentious and chaotic as it is sometimes portrayed? Here you can get a progressive perspective on some of the issues from someone who spent four years in the trenches. Totally unbiased, though! Feel free to comment but keep it respectful, just like they do at council."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Have bus pass, will travel

On Monday evening, Londoners will get an opportunity to weigh in on how we can fairly give people access to transit.

This issue has been before council many times before and always the response has been the same: we can’t afford to assist everyone who needs it.

Currently, the city spends just under half a million dollars on subsidizing bus passes for seniors (25%) and the blind (100%). Bus passes are also provided for individuals seeking employment through Ontario Works. There is no subsidy for persons with disabilities or people who are living in poverty.

The cost of a single ticket is $2.75 for adults or 5 for $9.50. There are also monthly passes but the only discounts are for students (grades 7-12), children 5-12 and seniors. Fanshawe and UWO students have the cost of their monthly passes included in their student activity fees.

While these fares may seem to be reasonable and in fact do not cover the actual cost of the service, clearly they will limit the mobility of persons living in poverty.

During the public participation meeting before Board of Control in respect to the 2010 budget, several community groups came forward to urge council to budget for a 50% subsidy for persons living in poverty regardless of their age or disability. Staff has estimated that the cost of such a program would be in excess of $12 million which would mean a 3% increase in the tax levy, something that few of us would relish.

The advocates for the program argue that they don’t expect that a 50% subsidy can be implemented overnight. They do want to see progress.

During the transit strike we learned that London, which prides itself on running a very cost effective transit system, provides almost the lowest level of support compared to other cities of its size and in our region. We want to expand the system to encourage greater ridership, since public transit is very cost effective compared to continuously building and maintaining more roads and serves to reduce traffic congestion and environmental pollution as well as reducing consumption of fossil fuels. Indeed, provincial government grants are tied to increased ridership.

Last fall, with only a brief debate, council approved spending more than half a million dollars for free parking in some of our downtown areas. Surely, if we can provide subsidies for people in private cars, we can give some assistance to those who are in the weakest position to pay and build our transit system at the same time.

What do you think?

On Monday, January 25 at 5:00 p.m. you can weigh in on the debate. Drop in to the public participation before the Community and Protective Services Committee meeting in Committee Rooms 1 and 2 on the second floor of city hall. Your input will be welcome.

For more information on this issue, read the staff report and check the London Transit Commission website.

No comments: