Salmon Arm City Councillor Chad Eliason, then-Mayor Nancy Cooper, then Coun.-Marg Kentel and BC Transit Sr. Regional Manager Steve Harvard and guests on board a local transit bus in December 2011 during a celebration marking 20 years of transit service in the area. (File photo)

Salmon Arm City Councillor Chad Eliason, then-Mayor Nancy Cooper, then Coun.-Marg Kentel and BC Transit Sr. Regional Manager Steve Harvard and guests on board a local transit bus in December 2011 during a celebration marking 20 years of transit service in the area. (File photo)

Province follows transit tradition similar to Salmon Arm’s 15 years later

In 2006 the city introduced free bus rides for children and youth on all school and other holidays

The B.C. government has opted to move forward with a plan similar to what the City of Salmon Arm has been doing since 2006.

As part of its 2021 budget unveiled on April 20, the provincial government announced a free transit plan for kids 12 and under, coming into effect in September.

It will apply to any public transit system in B.C., including TransLink, HandyDart and BC Transit. Previously, both transit agencies had allowed children up to four or five years to ride for free.

Back in 2006, when Salmon Arm Coun. Chad Eliason was in his first year as a newly elected municipal politician, he introduced a plan to offer free transit to people up to 18 years. Mayor and council agreed, so it was put in place that year and has been since.

Eliason recounts that when he was attending the University of Victoria there was a similar system in place: everyone with a student card would get a free transit pass.

“When I came back to Salmon Arm I noticed there were no kids riding the bus.”

Read more: Public transit to be free for kids 12 and younger – a ‘bold’ B.C. budget line advocates applaud

Read more: Dedicated driver: Salmon Arm BC Transit employee earns lifetime achievement award

Read more: HandyDART additions part of BC Transit plan to expand Shuswap fleet

Eliason said the Salmon Arm program, which is in effect only for school holidays and other holidays as routes shut down by about 6 p.m, cost the city approximately $700 in lost revenue that first year.

The idea was to cut down on vehicle traffic and emissions, to help out parents who were driving their kids, and to help youths be more self-sufficient and save their money.

Since 2006, other promotions in B.C. have sprung up.

He said BC Transit did an ‘I love the bus’ promo in the Lower Mainland, Squamish introduced a promo whereby anyone who had a reusable shopping bag could ride for free, and last year Victoria invited youth 18 and under to apply for a free bus pass.

Eliason would like to see the B.C. government go further.

“The province has only gone 12 and under and I’m not sure of their rationale. I don’t think they went quite far enough; I think they should have gone 18 and under.”

However, he added: “I’m just happy that they’ve done it.”


martha.wickett@saobserver.net
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