10 Days Of Transit: Youth And Child Fares

Transit Fares

Here’s a screen cap from the Regina Transit’s fare page. My wife pointed out the bit of hilarity I highlighted in yellow: children under five who are traveling alone don’t ride for free, they have to pay the full youth fare.

Oh really? I’m surprised. I’d think the policy would be that if a child four years or younger tries to ride the bus unaccompanied by an adult, the bus driver would contact the police immediately! Or, you know, maybe not be so quick with closing the doors and wait a minute until the parents catch up.

I think what probably happened here though is that at one time the age range for youth fares was different and the child free-fare applied to older kids — kids you could imagine riding the bus solo… so, like an eight or nine year old. And then when the rule changed, someone switched up all the numbers and didn’t note how silly that footnote now looks.

But that’s just a guess.

It does give me an excuse to bring up a hobby horse of mine: that the free fares cap out way too young. If it were up to me, kids would ride the bus free until they’re 12.

It seems like a really easy and inexpensive way for the transit system to make taking the bus cheaper for families. And it’s also a smart way to create a generation of transit users.

Right now, traveling with kids can be a very expensive proposition. As I pointed out in my last 10 Days Of Transit post, a round trip with one child over five costs $9 without R-cards. With R-cards it’s $7. With two kids over five, it’s $13 without R-cards and $10 with. Those are added costs that will make going to the movies, for instance, unaffordable for some families. And it also means that for many destinations, taking a taxi isn’t much more expensive than taking the bus — and with a taxi you have a lot more control over when you leave and where you get picked up and dropped off.

Let children ride free and the economics change completely. All of a sudden, it becomes the best option and the relative inconvenience of not being able to pick up and go right when you want is offset by that reduced cost.

And speaking as someone who rides the bus a lot, I suspect that this change won’t hurt Regina Transit’s bottom line. I don’t see a lot of families taking the bus together. I mean, there are lots of parents taking kids on the bus who are still in strollers and thus still young enough to ride free. But parents accompanied by a group of older kids? Not so much.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that families are avoiding transit because it’s just too costly.

Let kids ride free and their parents will go with them and pay full fare. You’ll have more families on the bus and I’m betting you’ll see a boost in transit revenues along with that boost in ridership.

And, as I hinted above, all these kids are going to grow up to see transit as a natural transportation option. And that means life-long bus riders buying passes and R-cards. It seems like a big win for everybody.

But, even if I’m wrong, even if Regina Transit is currently collecting buckets of cash off youth fares that it stands to lose under this proposition, so what? If city hall is serious about changing the transportation culture in the city, then this seems like a worthwhile long-term investment towards that goal.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5’10” tall and he was born in a place. He’s not there now. He’s sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It’s “Girl From Ipanema”, thanks for asking.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

32 thoughts on “10 Days Of Transit: Youth And Child Fares”

  1. “Let kids ride free and their parents will go with them and pay full fare.”
    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe Regina Transit should get some input from private business on this. How many “family restaurants” have “kids under 10 eat free” deals when parents pay full price? How’s that working out for them?
    Where all my civic-minded brainiacs from the Chamber of Commerce at? Hollaback!

  2. The high-lighted explanation demonstrates what happens when clarity is sacrificed for brevity.

    I wonder how many people use, or even know about, the day/weekend family pass? These allow quite a bit of travel in a 24-hour period, so if you and your child(ren) have a day of errands, appointments, shopping, or trips to the movies/museums/library/etc., these would be handy. It’d be interesting to see the city’s figures on this particular service.
    All of that said, the idea of free rides for kids up to age 12 is well worth pursuing.

  3. Emmet: Considering the attention the Chamber’s opinions get from council, bringing them on board seems a smart place to start — for any idea, really. That is, if you want it to go anywhere.

    Barb: Problem with the passes is, where do you buy them? There’s the transit station downtown but then you’ll have to take a bus to get there. And I know you can buy transit passes and fill up your R-card at Safeways and other retail sites around town but I’ve found it to be a serious hassle as the staff rarely know what to do. I was once turned away from the pharmacy in the Golden Mile because, they told me, the one person who works there who knows how to operate the machine to fill R-cards wasn’t around that day.

    They did make change for my $20 so that I could pay for the bus with coins. But then that meant I had to pay $1 more than if they’d been able to fill my card.

    And I thanked them for that!

    I considered phoning transit to let them know about this incident. But I’ve given up contacting them when things go awry. They never return my calls when I phone in as a transit user. As press, it’s a different story. But if I’m just some guy who’s had a miserable experience with the buses one day (can’t get card filled, bus doesn’t show, bus showed early, paratransit bus blasts through a 4-way because the driver was texting while driving <-- that really happened) I leave my complaint with the service line and never get a follow-up.

  4. Paul: Transit has its own Facebook page, heavily used by the public. Perhaps you should try that route for your suggestions; that way there’s a record online, other people are encouraged to report similar experiences,and you avoid telephone tag. Giving up on reporting poor/non-existent service, especially after one bad experience, just doesn’t cut it; responsible consumers get on the a$$es of the providers until they pay attention and take action.

    By the way, look out for adjustments to routes, which will go into effect October 20. Check the Transit site, as well as its Facebook and Twitter.

  5. Not one bad experience, Barb. Several.

    As for using social media, I’m more likely to use Twitter than Facebook, but that is an idea.

  6. Fecebook isn’t gonna help much. Best bets are to find your councilor’s contact info & mention Paul’s idea.
    I’d just add, to raise the limit to 13-14.

    If this increases rider volume,then we may get more bus type vehicles on the road too!

  7. 1 more. Whoever proofread that transit page, & said all was good ,should be replaced + their “manager” too.
    He/She didn’t catch it either.

  8. If I wanted to spend all weekend riding this bus, $7 sounds like a deal. Walsh Acres to the ‘Landing, out to Rona and Superstore, poke around Uplands for a while. Wow. Could be a ‘thing’.

  9. Ron: I don’t know how responsive your councillor is, but mine is less so than the city’s Facebook page.

  10. Under the current rules, a whole gang of under-5s can ride together if just one pays the youth fare: Daycare Delinquents’ Day Off.

  11. Great idea a gent w !

    A Hillsdale / University bus, at 11am with 1 or 2 adults and 50, under 5 yr old children; strollers & all; from one end to the other of the route.

  12. Maybe a group fare.. on 1 way trips…4-5 & more.. $1.75 per regular payer.

    1 Question..How much does it cost to operate any specific route?

  13. I can confirm Paul’s observation that service regina treats ordinary callers poorly. I’d chalk it up to them being an incapable bureaucracy… except if I call and drop mention of any official associations, suddenly they can deliver proper service.

    It proves they can be capable when they know accountability or publicity is at stake. If it’s just some ordinary tax paying citizen calling, then brace yourself for apathy and bad service.

    Barb’s suggestion of shaming them through social media is like putting makeup over melanoma. They should be working to cure the root problem, not covering it up with random acts of service that are motivated only by trying to save some public relations face.

  14. Fares are too high and too restrictive. As a fraction of revenue, they’re symbolic at best anyway. And as Paul mentions, they’ve made the whole transit system confoundingly inconvenient.

    They want ridership and a great city? Make it free for 18 under and 55 plus. Have meaningfully deep discounts for regular users. For walk-ons, make it an even toonie for one way, and $3 for round trip – and define a round trip as being any other trips on the same day. A person doing a couple of errands shouldn’t be hit with 4 overpriced fares or any overpriced day rate. Triple-slamming users that way just galvanizes them to hate city transit for life and to never ever ever ever willingly use transit once they have any kind of choice in the matter.

    Transit is a service where the economics (would) scale up very nicely, yet the city seems to be doing their best to keep it as small and unappealing as possible. It’s so backwards and visionless.

    Ideally transit would just be free and convenient, and thus used by many – hardly a unique idea. That would be one way City Hall could actually claim with credibility Regina as a good place to live and work (without crossing their fingers while they say it.)

    Then again, the only free rides that Regina City Council approves are to real estate barons, rich football teams, and elite golf courses.

  15. Reader: the idea of using Facebook is not for shaming but to report incidents that need reporting. I’ve found this to be superior to phone contact. It’s all very well, from the depths of your armchair, to speak of curing root problems, but people want quick responses to particular problems.

    As for your solutions to transit, please. Fares are not unreasonable compared to other cities. Fares do not make transit inconvenient: route design and timing cover that off. Except for Paul and yourself — and I wonder if you actually ever do take the bus — I’ve never heard complaints about fares. Regular users have the option of several types of passes, loaded for time period or number of trips, and there’s the reduced-fee pass for folks in financial hardship. Passes can be used as tax deductions.

    Speaking of taxes, think what our taxes would be if your freebie plan was in place. This is why it’s difficult to take you seriously.

  16. The most the farebox will ever recover is somewhere in the 30-something percent neighbourhood, according to Regina Transit’s comparison to other Canadian transit systems doing better than us.

    Paul’s idea is great, and next time Council will let me lecture them on transit issues at a meeting, I’m bringing it up.

    I also this week heard of a store selling R-Cards refusing to allow someone on social assistance to buy at the discounted price.

  17. The age for free transit definitely hasn’t changed during the digital age. My mom told me that when growing up in the early 60’s she’d regularly lie and say her sister was under 5 when taking the bus to the movies so they’d have the extra dime for treats. Apparently a dime bought an order of fries back then.

    It’s just a really poorly constructed sentence.

  18. Reader: Don’t forget motor vehicle users. They get a pretty sweet deal too. Saskatoon just developed a list of 20 projects it would like to see completed in the next decade to alleviate traffic congestion. This includes bridges, arterial roads and interchanges. According to this CBC article no money’s in place for most of the projects yet. As for the cost, I think I heard a figure of $500 million floated on CBC radio this morning. But with inflationary pressure in the construction sector being what it is I suspect the cost will easily exceed that. And those costs are born by all taxpayers, regardless of what modes of transportation they use (or don’t use).

  19. Mr. Beatty: it’s “borne”, not “born”.

    John: that incident should be verified and reported. It may be as simple a matter as the customer’s not bringing the necessary ID, or it may be something else, in which case Transit needs to be informed and involved.

  20. Barb, think through what you are saying. Ask yourself WHY does beaking publicly on Facebook brings about a result that a concealed and expensive “service” bureau does not? The answer is obvious.

    Feel free to keep papering over symptoms. I have no doubt that tactic works for individuals that use it. My issue is that we shouldn’t have to resort to open air public relations skirmishes just to get service from our city.

    For my part, I’ll continue to call for more sustainable, permanent and significant solutions that would benefit the other 99% who don’t want to use the facebook public shaming work around.

    Regarding the transit system, I would encourage you to open yourself up to take input from others, both locally and beyond. Learn up on other cities where public transit works better. They offer many lessons for our city to gleefully ignore.

    For example, it’s well known that collecting fares isn’t even economic at small scale. I’d rather see 40 riders at $1 each than 4 riders at $2.50. That’s the big picture.

    Regina collects around $6 million in typical rider fares on a budget of around $30 million. The economics are clear – fares will never come anywhere close to being significant as long as we keep usage low. I can’t stress enough how efficiency (through increased usage) is by far the best bang for the buck.

    Even transit grants are starting to recognize this, with a trend towards paying based on usage not cost.

    Saying better ideas would skyrocket taxes is false once you study the relative budget amounts. Free transit fares for a year would be equivalent to just 10 days of running the water system for example.

    Those who deny the issues and discourage calls for improvement will keep the transit system stagnant, mediocre, inefficient and small. Ridership has increased, but considering the boom in low income residents, it’s actually lagging.

    There’s the occasional bright spark where a new idea gets past the naysayers. Take for example the revenue from Metro newspaper distribution (who scooped Prairie Dog with that one) Or the locally developed Transit Live with real time bus positions.

  21. Gregory Beatty: You concisely make a key point that Barb repeatedly illustrates. (Not to pick on her but she just perfectly fits the example.)

    People go ballistic against the idea of losing 50 cents on a bus fare and start crying wolf about taxes going up. Meanwhile, they blithely ignore hundreds of millions slushing into grossly inefficient vehicle transportation projects.

  22. So, Reader, by your reasoning, do programs and institutions such as the Food Bank, Souls Harbour, and Chili for Children simply “paper over” the problems of poverty and hunger? Hmmm; could be, but hungry children can’t wait for the grand solution; they need to be fed now.

  23. Should hungry children be fed? I’m going with yes.

    Random acts of facebook shaming instead of sustainable fixes for dysfunctional city departments? I’m going with no.

    Now can you explain how the city’s richly funded “service” department is just like a starving and impoverished child?

  24. I’m glad that you’d rather see one candle lit than curse the darkness, at least in one instance, but I wonder why you cannot fathom the use by citizens of the city’s Facebook page for reporting things that need attention. For some reason, you are fixated on “shaming” to the exclusion of any other function, which makes me wonder if your handle isn’t a terrific misnomer. )Sidebar: citizens also use the city’s FB to seek information, or to thank the city for service.)
    Your idea of a functional city department seems to be one which has such a high level of surveillance that there would be almost more city employees than ordinary citizens. Even the police can’t be so on top of every possible infraction that nothing needs to be reported to them; does that make the police department dysfunctional? How about the fire department, which responds to calls for their help? Would you regard calls to the police and firefighters as “random acts”? Your position is both unreasonable and unrealistic.
    Your last sentence is a complete misunderstanding of the comparison I made by taking your “papering over” remark to its logical conclusion. I was not equating city departments with hungry children; I was applying your argument (better one big fix than a number of small ones) to another context. It is the reporting citizen who needs immediate help, just as the hungry child does. The big fix needs to be done, but in the meantime, so do the little ones. Is that clearer now?

  25. You seem to be saying we should use Facebook to contact fire and police instead of their competent and accountable dispatch center. I think that would be senseless.

    And I never said anything about a city department having high surveillance and more employees than citizens.

    The reason you get a reaction when you call out the city on Facebook is they know people are watching and it’s really trendy right now to make it look like you are social media savvy.

    It’s similar to why I get a decent response when they know my affiliations, but a poor response if they don’t. It’s why Paul the Journalist gets extra attention but Paul the Citizen gets the brush off.

    I’m not saying that Facebook shame service requests don’t work, in fact it’s an unfortunately effective temporary work around for handling one-off situations.

    But it’s hardly a sustainable method, it creates a false impression, and it undermines the chance of having proper service fulfillment practices.

  26. Reader —and I use that term loosely — you seem unable to comprehend analogy, and therefore the use of comparisons, and reasoning from comparisons, appear to be beyond your grasp. Your first sentence illustrates this perfectly. If you read, really read, what I said, you would know that what you have written above is far off the mark. Your second sentence is also wildly out of left field. I’m sorry that you have problems with understanding and with expressing yourself.

  27. If you’re going to be sorry about anything, it should be for posting a pack of personal insults instead of a useful contribution.

    I patiently sidestepped your rude implication that I want children to starve. But you still wouldn’t stop your unprovoked attacks.

    When I read the last two posts, I see my I made my points about a city bureau without insulting or calling you names, while your post is a sarcastic derogation that doesn’t even contain a single word about the issue being discussed.

  28. It’s passing strange how you can be so concise when you want to be, and yet so literal-minded and so seemingly obtuse as to miss points left, right and centre as you have been doing throughout this conversation.

  29. “can be so concise when you want to be, and yet so literal-minded and so seemingly obtuse as to miss points left, right and centre as you have been doing throughout this conversation.”

    I’ve never seen Reader do that before. Oh, wait, Rooming House bylaw. Nevermind ;-)

    His point about the City needing fixing is valid. I’ve verified the problem took place regarding refusal of R-Card. Paul just cited an R-Card payment problem too, if you hadn’t noticed. Reporting it to Councillor Young or any Councillor or Service Regina, as a lowly citizen, is bound to have uninspiring results.

  30. Barb – I left you an opening for an apology, but you responded with more personal insults… and yet again, nothing about the topic.

    I don’t know what’s happened to make you this way (poor bus service or service regina’s inconsistent treatment perhaps?), but for whomever or whatever has turned you into such a person, I apologize.

  31. Paul – approaching Councilor Young is futile. At least service regina puts on a false pretense of service when the public is watching, but Young doesn’t even do that. I’ve heard you can catch her sometimes at the airport.

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