The Regional District of Nanaimo board decided to waive transit fares in the name of democracy for election day at Tuesday night’s committee of the whole RDN meeting.
“It’s a good gesture on our part to promote public transit and it’s good for us to get a better turnout (at the polls), especially the young people and the elderly people who have trouble getting around,” said Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek.
Regional District CAO Paul Thorkelsson said the cost associated with waiving public transportation fees is relatively low because many riders have pre-purchased transit cards. Thorkelsson said daily transit fees collected are approximately $5,000. While directors eventually agreed to offer free transportation all day to all riders, there was some debate about whether the free ride should be specifically to polling stations and whether or not people should need to show their voter ID to get the deal. Thorkelsson said to “slice” up routes based on where polling stations are located would make things too complicated and requiring people to show voter ID would put the onus on bus drivers to negotiate with riders, as many people don’t have voter ID cards and are planning on using regular identification.
Nanaimo Coun. Bill Bestwick pointed out, “not to be a stick in the mud,” voting closes at 7 p.m. and wondered if the free transit offer would have a time frame.
“If the board is interested in doing this opening it up is the best route to go,” said Thorkelsson. “The cost associated with this is relatively low … I think it’s a gain in terms of goodwill of the electoral process.”
RDN transit will be free of charge all day Monday, Oct. 19 in an effort to encourage voting in the 42nd federal election.
For more on Tuesday’s RDN committee of the whole meeting check next week’s paper.