Saturday, November 9, 2019

How #zerofaretransit would help in the struggle to survive and improve quality of life

Report on AAP's Community Forum on Free Transit

July 13, 2017

Report on the AAP Transit Forum of June 3, 2017 (by Richard Walsh, AAP member)
The AAP Free-Transit Forum was held on June 3rd in the accessible church hall of Historic St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Queen St. So., Kitchener. The purpose was to launch a political strategy to establish free public transit for low-income individuals in Waterloo Region. Approximately 50 people participated in the event beyond AAP members and volunteers.
After some brief introductory remarks from AAP member Richard Walsh as the event moderator, two speakers set the moral tone for the Forum: AAP member Regan Brussé shared her personal experience as a mother of three in trying to manage transportation for necessities. By way of precedents, she noted at least two Canadian cities have introduced drastically reduced (Calgary) or free public transit (Kingston). Then Joe Mancini of the Working Centre in Kitchener underscored the importance of affordable public transit for all in the Region.
Next, in five groups participants first discussed what they thought of the AAP proposal to make public transit free for low-income people. Each group then elected a member to report to the whole group what their group had discussed before moving to the second issue, namely, their views on what political action should be taken to achieve this goal.
Views on the Proposal for Free Transit
Some participants reported that given the escalating cost of living and the low rates of public assistance, transit costs make it difficult to get out into the community and to “access social amenities.” Many agreed that this is a common experience that worsens individuals’ mental health. Some said the reverse is also true: Affordable transit enhances social inclusion, which makes people feel part of the community.
Others noted that, with many of the social agencies in the region being located outside of core areas, affordable transit is a necessity. In fact, two groups stressed that affordable transit is a human right. As a matter of social justice, other participants added, the Region has already invested billions in the LRT, so it’s only right that everyone, regardless of income, can use it and the buses. In addition, some people noted the environmental benefits of free transit: Increased reliance on public transit that is made much more affordable by reducing or eliminating fares also reduces per capita pollutants and carbon emissions. 

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