The Regional District of Nanaimo plans to provide a limited number of free bus passes for families below the poverty line within the regional district.
Under Policy C3.2, Distribution of Complimentary and Reduced Fare Products, free transit passes will be distributed by non-profit organizations within the regional district, to individuals and families who fall below the low-income cutoff as defined by Statistics Canada.
The 2016 census data reported that in the RDN, there are a total of 12,960 people living below the poverty line. The RDN, however, is not in a position to fund free transit passes to everyone. According to Daniel Pierce, Director of Transportation and Emergency Services, if half the number — students, seniors and adults — is eligible to receive a complimentary monthly pass, it would result in a potential loss in revenue of $376,960 per month, or $4,523,520 annually. It would require tax requisition to recover the loss.
The Distribution of Complimentary and Reduced Fare Products Policy allows the RDN to set a maximum amount of $25,000 that would be distributed within a calendar year.
This would provide 1,100 sheets of 10 adult tickets to be distributed to people below the poverty line.
Staff recommended to the RDN Transit Select Committee to approve the $25,000 amount. The 2018 Transportation Financial Plan includes the loss of $25,000 to accommodate the policy.
In his report to the RDN Transit Select Committee, Pierce indicated that there is no industry standard when selecting a discount fare program.
Based on the 2015 low-income cutoff, which is the most recent data available, those eligible for complimentary fare are one-person households with a gross income of $20,822, two persons ($25,921), three persons ($31,866), four persons ($38,691), five persons ($43,883), six persons ($49,493) and seven persons ($55,103).