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Should TransLink have a flat fee for all students?

TransLink recently held its annual general meeting aboard the newSeaBus — a nice touch for what could have been an otherwise dulloccasion. The passenger ferry — packed with VIPs, politicians, mediaand concerned citizens — sailed across a picture-perfect Burrard Inletfor the occasion, which laid out the transit agency’sless-than-sparkling financial outlook.

TransLink recently held its annual general meeting aboard the new SeaBus — a nice touch for what could have been an otherwise dull occasion. The passenger ferry — packed with VIPs, politicians, media and concerned citizens — sailed across a picture-perfect Burrard Inlet for the occasion, which laid out the transit agency’s less-than-sparkling financial outlook.


Among those not in attendance for the annual event: Lisa Pinoni, a busy mother of three from Vancouver who is frustrated with the escalating cost of bus fares for secondary and elementary students. Pinoni, who has two children attending high school in nearby Burnaby, can’t understand why students at the secondary level are paying more for transit than U-Pass holders at colleges and universities.


Since the price for the concession bus pass available to students was raised in April, she is now paying $46.50 for each of her high schoolers — translating into an out-of-pocket expense of $93 monthly to get her kids to class.


“Why am I being punished by paying a higher cost for transit passes when my children are students?” she asks.


It’s a good question. After all, high school is mandated by the government. To this end, Pinoni lays out a reasonable pricing solution.


“Why can’t we have a flat fee for all students whether they are high school or post-secondary students?”


She is not asking these questions hypothetically. She has taken her issue to both the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and TransLink. The Ministry has not returned her correspondence to date, while TransLink responded with a form letter that hardly satisfied her.


However, I did hear back from TransLink representative Drew Snider on this topic. According to Snider, there are no plans to introduce fares that are further subsidized for either secondary or elementary students. In an email, he said that in contrast to post-secondary students, “elementary and high school students tend to live at home, with comparatively smaller living expenses to pay. Most elementary school students have a relatively short walk to school, and the catchment areas for high schools usually allow most students to come on foot or bicycle.”


I appreciate the candid response from TransLink.


But as a parent myself, I can’t help but sympathize with Pinoni’s crusade.


A flat fee for all students: Why not? Youth would be served — and so too would their budget-sensitive families.