Affordable and Equitable Transit

By | January 18, 2019

The following is the speech I delivered to the Vancouver City Mayor and Council on January 16th, 2019. I was one of several speakers supporting the #AllOnBoard motion for free transit for all children and youth 0-18, a sliding scale pass system based on income for adults, an immediate end to the fare evasion ticketing of minors, and the introduction of community service as an alternative to ticketing for adults.

“I founded Citizens for Accessible Neighbourhoods in 2005 because of physical and attitudinal access on transit. For the past thirteen years CAN has advocated for, and worked with, TransLink to improve the accessibility of our system. As exciting as the progress of the physical accessibility of the system is, for many of our members, those improvements do not benefit them because of finances. All too often, unfortunately, financial accessibility is lost in conversations about access and yet, if one can’t afford the transit system, it doesn’t matter to them if it is physically accessible to them.

The majority of C.A.N.’s members are people with disabilities, and a significant portion live below the poverty line, on financial assistance, and transit is vital for them to access services, food banks, volunteering, the medical system, education, and employment, as well as to connecting to support and community.

There are no words to adequately describe what it is to live in poverty and to see a transit system everywhere you go and know you cannot afford it, that it is not for you. We have a transit system that could improve the lives of many, but they can’t access it, or, when they do access it, they do so by cutting into their resources for food, medications, medical needs and/or housing or at the possibility of a huge expense, like the tickets for fare evasion.

There is a weight to poverty. Every day you live under a burden of an enormous pressure stretching dollars, making desperate decisions and constantly juggling needs. Many of our members feel isolated and scared and they are losing hope at improving their lives or finding ways out of poverty or even figuring out a way to have a little less weight on their shoulders. Not having access to transit leads to isolation, depression and a disconnect from the community, worse yet, it can make people feel that no one cares about them and it reinforces the idea that people, once in poverty, are unable to break the cycle and work their way out. Even those of our members who do buy monthly bus passes, have to do so by making constant sacrifices and difficult decisions at the expense of essentials like: medications, groceries, medical appointments, proper seasonal clothing and more.

The current BC bus pass is $52 a month. For those of us on disability who paid $45 per year, just a few years ago, this $52 a month is a huge increase and one that forces us to decide between applying the money to transit or other necessities. I had to make this decision, I chose groceries, it was not an easy decision. I have a bus stop directly behind my unit and I can no longer access it. I‘ve lost my independence. I am fortunate, however, as my parents have a wheelchair accessible van. I have options, many do not. There are some who make this decision month by month and this is exhausting. There is a mental and emotional toll to continually juggling money. You can choose to help alleviate this weight.

AllOnBoard is asking for an inclusive and equitable approach to transit costs. This approach does not favour one demographic but speaks to income, it recognizes that many demographics, immigrants, families, people with disabilities, seniors and more are in need of more affordable transportation. It understands that transit is a vital need for those struggling to get by in Vancouver, one that opens up opportunities, allows people to access the community supports they need and to be a part of their community.

I thank you for allowing me this time to represent the voices of the members of Citizens for Accessible Neighbourhoods. I represent our members on federal disability who do not have access to the provincial bus pass program. I represent our members on provincial disability who had to use the increase in disability for medications, medical appointments, housing and/or food. I represent our members of various ages without disabilities who have financial limitations who need the equity offered by the #AllOnBoard motion, ensuring transportation costs are based on a sliding scale based on incomes. And I represent myself, who is currently without access to the transit system.

I also thank you for this time to speak on behalf of members of our community who feel isolated, unheard and pushed to the margins. With this vote, you have the opportunity to tell these people that they are seen, that their voices are being heard, that they are valued members of our community and they deserve transit they can afford so that they can access the supports, services, community and opportunities that exist in Vancouver and which will help enable them to live the lives they envision for themselves.

Supporting the #AllOnBoard motion is a step forward in recognizing the necessity of transit and the importance of a fair and equitable system that does not penalize poverty, and which better supports citizens in becoming active participants socially, economically, and politically within their communities.”

The mayor and council voted in favour of supporting the motion, with one councillor voting against. Vancouver is the third city to vote in favour of supporting the #AllOnBoard motion, following Port Moody and New West. Those of us involved will now move on to other cities/municipalities in the Lower Mainland.


For more information about #AllOnBoard, visit their website at

#AllOnBoard stands for affordable and accessible transit based on income in Metro Vancouver to ensure our communities can access public transit to live, work and thrive. 

We advocate for:

  • Free transit for all children and youth 0-18
  • Sliding scale monthly pass system based on income 

We advocate for an immediate end to the fare evasion ticketing of minors, and the introduction of community service and restorative justice options for adults as an alternative to fare evasion tickets. 

We also advocate for a social justice and poverty reduction mandate for Translink, non-stigmatizing affordability measures, fare evasion fines to be unlinked from ICBC and infrastructure expansion. 

Metro Vancouver has zero affordability measures based on income to ensure equitable acccess to our public transit system. We lag far behind many cities and municipalities across Canada, the US and beyond that offer affordability measures to ensure low-income folks can access the essential service of public transit. 

The result? Children, youth and adults that primarily lack access to any other form of transport in Metro Vancouver remain locked out of our transit system.

The time is now. Join in solidarity to make affordable transit a #1 issue in Metro Vancouver and ensure our whole communities can get on board.  

#AllOnBoard is a movement. The campaign consists of an alliance of  coalitions, organizations, community groups, advocates, unions and passionate communities and citizens from municipalities across Metro Vancouver coming together to ensure our entire communities can get on board.

#AllOnBoard stands for affordable and accessible transit based on income in Metro Vancouver to ensure our communities can access public transit to live, work and thrive.