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Free student transit fare pilot project continues in Kitimat

The project was launched in September 2020 and allowed students to board buses for free
The District of Kitimat has announced to continue their free transit fares for all students in kindergarten to Grade 12. The pilot project will continue to run until August 2023, and will be reviewed in 2023 to see if it will be renewed. (Black Press photo)

The District of Kitimat (DoK) will offer free transit rides for students in kindergarten to Grade 12 until August 2023.

The project was launched in September 2020 and allowed students attending elementary, middle and high school in the Kitimat and Kitamaat Village to board Kitimat buses for free.

BC Transit is also working with the provincial government to cover the cost of transit for children under the age of 12, meaning Kitimat’s pilot program would only have to cover the costs of students aged 13 to 18 years.

“I think it’s very important to support teens becoming accustomed to using and normalizing public transit,” said councillor Lani Gibson in support of extending the student fare pilot program.

Statistics indicate there was a 45 per cent increase in the school-aged population users of public transit with frequent use outside school hours, however, those numbers may substantially increase as COVID-19 restrictions begin to relax.

“That was one of the reasons why we supported this pilot project initially because the statistics show that [children/youth] are more likely to use public transit as an adult if you’re exposed to it as a child,” said Gibson.

For the seven-month period the program has been running, revenues across the conventional system have decreased by 40 per cent at $43,000 below the previous year. While some of this decrease is contributed by the pilot program, adult and senior monthly pass sales also declined between 28-25%.

Though it’s difficult to determine what revenue losses are due to COVID-19 and what are due to the pilot program, the overall pro-rated year period drop in revenue is estimated to be about $73,000. This estimation likely overstates the effect of the program as student pass sales typically decline in July and August.

Given that the program will run until the end of August in 2023, high school students who graduate in June 2023 will still be able to participate in the program until the pass expires at the end of the summer.

Contact the District of Kitimat for more information on the pilot project.

READ MORE: Free student transit fares pilot project in Kitimat