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Our View: Making transit free for kids will pay big dividends

Building a new generation of transit riders is good for B.C.

If you want to make something popular, make it cheaper, or better yet, free.

The B.C. government is moving forward with a promise the NDP made during last October’s election campaign – starting on Sept. 1, kids 12 and younger will be able to ride for free on any TransLink or BC Transit service.

That means no buying a ticket for the kids when going on a bus, SkyTrain, or the SeaBus.

For families that are dependent on transit and have elementary-school aged kids, that’ll be a big savings.

The government announcement notes that a family currently spending $57 a month on a yearly TransLink pass will save more than $687, per child under the age of 12.

In addition to making getting around easier for families, it will hopefully create future riders.

Riding public transit has been anxiety-inducing at best during the pandemic, but in the long run, we need more transit. More and more residents of the Lower Mainland are going to have to use transit to ensure that we can both combat climate change and simply to avoid gridlock. No matter how much we widen highways, we’ll need to cut down the number of cars on the roads per capita just to keep things moving.

That said, if the province really wants to make transit more effective and create lifelong bus and SkyTrain users, they’ll have to do a few more things to make it accessible.

One major hurdle is that the buses don’t exactly show up in rapidly-developing neighbourhoods right away.

Waiting for sufficient density is one thing, but wait too long and everyone in the area will be completely car-dependent.

We need more buses, more electric buses, and more buses going to fast-growing areas. All that, and SkyTrain, as soon as we can get it

– M.C.