Edmonton Transit Service already offers a discounted pass for students. But, for kids in need, it isn’t enough.
That’s what the Urban Planning Committee heard this week at City Hall, as it mulled over a plan that would increase bus service in the city.
The City is already considering a recommendation that transit should be free for all riders under the age of 12 — unaccompanied or not. Currently, kids under 12 ride for free with a paying adult. But, Tim Adams, the CEO of Free Play for Kids, and Sarah Smith, the engagement specialist for Action for Healthy Communities, made the pitch that afterschool rides, from dismissal to 7 p.m., should be free for all youth under 18.
It’s a call that was supported by Steve Bradshaw, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union branch that represents the city’s bus drivers.
Why the need for free rides? The programs that Adams and Smith represent are part of the Youth After School initiative, which offers programming for kids at city rec centres from 3-5:30 p.m. on weekdays. There are sports, cultural and social programs. These are especially important for kids in need, whose families can’t afford or make time to put their kids in club soccer or dance classes.
But, to take advantage of the program, the kids have to be able to get to the rec centres. And, for a family in need, even a discounted transit pass is a bridge too far.
“Youth are unable to buy that bus pass, still,” said Adams. “Some people are still trying to find a meal, so a bus pass is beyond their means.”