By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Oshawa council is pushing for the region to make transit free for all children under 12 years old.
A few weeks ago, admission for GO Transit buses and trains became free for that age group.
Ward 1 city councillor Rosemary McConkey suggested Durham Regional Transit should follow suit.
This idea is something Ward 5 regional councillor Brian Nicholson says he has promoted for some time, and paying for transit is often a barrier to families with young children going out into the community.
“If you’re a young family, and you’re on a limited income, if you want to go to swimming lessons, we charge $2 to $3 to get in,” Nicholson states. “You are spending twice as much for transit than you are for access to the pool.”
Nicholson believes this has made it “onerous” for families to utilize transit.
“A public transit system that people don’t use isn’t a system we can defend,” he said, noting he has expressed to transit staff implementing such a policy has raised revenue for other municipalities.
Ward 2 regional councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri said the idea has been brought up a number of times in the past.
The region does provide free rides to children under five years old, but declining youth ridership has become an issue for DRT in the past half decade.
In 2017, youth ridership was down 97,000 trips, or 7.4 per cent.
Last July and August, children 12 and under were able to ride free when traveling with an adult holding a monthly pass.
At that time, DRT general manager Vincent Patterson said this program could be extended depending on customer reception.
The Express reached out to DRT to inquire if there were plans to do so, however, no direct response was provided.
According to DRT’s website, current fares for children five to 12 are $2.50 for a single cash fare, $2.10 for a single trip with a Presto card, $21 for paper tickets and $65 for a monthly Presto pass.