Alliance Against Poverty Chair, Richard Walsh, acted as moderator for this Forum. Below he opens the discussion and welcomes the guests and two speakers
Alliance Against Poverty member Regan Sunshine Brussé (Me!) helped set the tone of the forum by relaying some perspectives of the low income user.
Joe Mancini, founder of The Working Center, a local organization who assists in the distribution of current low income passes, as well as many other forms of marginalization supports, assisted by throwing in his support for further discussion on the need for low income based transit fare reductions measures.
Following the above brief opening speeches, forum participants partook in smaller group discussions, then returned together to review their findings. Here are some of the participants responses.
Learn more about the Alliance Against Poverty's current efforts at our groups website www.AllianceAgainstPoverty.com
Communities within Canada are beginning to address the issues that urban sprawl and capitalism have created for our poorest community members. In an effort to financially equalize access, Kingston has offered OW recipients free transit fares for the year of 2017. All they had to do was reallocate funding to cover it. Calgary is now running its public transit system by selling monthly passes at a cost based on income. Those with low income can now purchase a monthly pass at a cost of $5.15. Both of these ideas make sense, but even better would be to make public transit free for low-income people. Providing a free public transit fare system for our local low income population is imperative to bring Waterloo Region aboard the bus heading towards eliminating poverty.
Everyone here today has some awareness of what poverty can be like to experience. So let’s look directly at what it's like not having the ability to afford transit:
It’s walking to the doctors office in the snow or rain across town because there’s “too much month left at the end of your money.”
It’s wanting to attend a local “Free” festival, to get out of the house with your children, but knowing that it will cost you $26 round trip for you and three kids. But you can’t afford it.
It’s spending the morning debating if you should spend your last bit of change on buying milk or taking the bus to a food hamper, where hopefully they will provide you with some, as well as other fresh goods your family needs.
It’s showing up sweaty and exhausted for that job interview you finally got, because you walked two kilometers to get there. You needed that job, but couldn't afford the bus fare.
It's feeling demoralized, angry even, as you watch a half empty bus drive past you, when you're really sick of walking... and you’re tired…and broke.
Poverty isn’t easy. Nothing about it is. And most of us are not far from having to rely on government assistance. Losing a paycheck or two could leave many of us anywhere between lacking the means to buy food, to being homeless. The choices we create for those who need assistance now, may be the same choices we come upon if we face financial difficulties ourselves.
Regardless of who a person is, what they have, or where they've come from, every member of our community deserves freedom of mobility at a cost they can afford. Let's return public transit to the public. Let's allow those who need a little help, the right to ride the bus for free.
Written by Regan Sunshine Brussé
Edited by Richard Walsh