Pointing to the potential for lost revenue and increased costs, city staff is advising council not to make Guelph Transit rides free for high school students and seniors – an idea city council told it to look into earlier this year.
A report released on Friday explains the move could result in $950,000 of lost fare revenue and more than $1 million in additional operating expenses annually, in addition to $4.2 million needed to buy three new buses to accommodate peak times.
“Making high school kids ride free would likely require approximately three additional buses and approximately six operators, plus the costs of fuel and maintenance,” states the report, noting three of seven high school routes are already at maximum bus capacity during peak times.
Instead, staff is recommending a couple of alternative approaches – expand the affordable bus pass program and its fare capping to include additional users, and create a “formal approval process” to help students in need access that program.
“There is no financial cost to the measures being recommended by staff to make transit passes more accessible for high school students and seniors,” the report notes.
City council directed staff during its April meeting to investigate making transit rides for seniors and high school students free, with a report back to council ahead of the 2024 to 2027 municipal budget process.
During the April meeting council approved a new fare strategy which implemented three programs aimed at lowering the cost of riding the bus for children and people in financial need:
- Council made the affordable pass program permanent, with a sliding scale based on need that puts the cost of monthly passes between $4 and $32
- The kids ride free was also made permanent, giving free rides to children ages 12 and younger
- A fare-capping program was introduced, aimed at helping monthly pass holders that ride less to save money.