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Free rides could be on borrowed time

There aren’t too many free tickets left these days. And one of Calgary’s few remaining exceptions, the downtown C-Train free fare zone, could be living on borrowed time.

There aren’t too many free tickets left these days.

And one of Calgary’s few remaining exceptions, the downtown C-Train free fare zone, could be living on borrowed time.

Since light rail transit was introduced to the city in 1981, the 7 Avenue free fare zone has been a constant despite the system seeing massive expansion that now includes 45 kilometres of track and 37 stations.

But the free ride may soon be over.

One of the key recommendations in a sweeping transit safety audit is to eliminate the free fare zone to ensure only serious transit users are using the system.

Calgary Transit officials are now putting together a plan and cost estimates for all the recommendations, which will ultimately be left up to a city committee to determine in October.

Ald. Gord Lowe, who chaired the special safety audit subcommittee, said with transit ridership close to cresting 100 million riders per year, those who use the service should do so with both comfort and safety — and that isn’t free.

“The idea is simply having something to validate people’s presence on the train because right now you have people riding from end to end because they’re looking for some place to get warm or to cause mischief,” he said.

Lowe has mused about the notion of regular downtown train users paying $25 for a year pass, ensuring the lawyers and consultants can get to where they need to go without taking a major shot in the wallet.

Still other aldermen have proposed only charging the fee in the evening, allowing day-to-day business to stay on track.

It takes a monumental effort for city hall to quell the instinct to charge for a service.

But in this case, Calgarians deserve the free ride.

 
 
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