Mayor needs to broaden free Guelph Transit to teenagers, seniors

Mayor Cam Guthrie says he wants to see free Guelph Transit service expanded to the city's teens and seniors.Mayor Cam Guthrie says he wants to see free Guelph Transit service expanded to the city's teens and seniors.

Mayor Cam Guthrie wants to see more people riding Guelph Transit for free.

Speaking recently with the Mercury Tribune, Guthrie said he plans on bringing a motion forward during January budget discussions to have city staff look into what it would cost to make city buses free to ride for everyone in school up to Grade 12, along with senior citizens .

That report, he said, would then come back to council in early summer when the city’s new four-year strategic plan, which will help determine what will go into city budgets through 2027, will be voted on.

“What I’m wanting is to have all that information, have the real world report on what it would take to actually do that and then have it embedded into the discussion with council to see if they’re up for it,” the mayor said.

Guthrie said if councillors are indeed up for it, it would build off the pilot project, currently ongoing, that makes Guelph Transit free for those up to the age of 12.

As previously reported by the Mercury Tribune, that pilot project, along with another offering bus passes for as low as $4 per month for those with the lowest incomes — has been successful in bringing hundreds of additional riders on to city buses in 2022.

Guthrie noted the program offering buses for free for those up to the age of 12 had originally been slated to first come to council in April 2020 — “I had the motion ready to go” — but had to be put on hold due to COVID- 19

“And then we all know what happened with COVID and transit. It was just terrible timing,” he said, adding that had not happened, he believes the previous council “would have embraced, at a minimum, having the Grade 12 and under (ride for free) last year.”

“So I think what I did last year, with introducing the 12-and-under, which was almost like a stepping-stone to see if there would be uptake on this at all. And obviously from the report that came out (Dec. 9 ), it shows that it was absolutely embraced, more so than I thought it would be.”

The sliding scale subsidized bus pass, Guthrie added, should also be made permanent.

A special council meeting on the 2023 city budgets is currently scheduled for Jan. 25, 2023, with that session beginning at 9 am

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