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.