Posted March 20, 2017
Residents protested the expiry of Mississauga's affordable transportation pilot program at the Square One transit terminal on Friday.
“We want them to expand the program, do more outreach and then also make it a permanent program where all low-income people in Mississauga can get affordable transit,” said Patricja Pryzmus, Mississauga resident and member of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).
Launched in May 2016, the $1.4-million affordable transportation pilot program allowed eligible Mississauga residents to purchase a monthly MiWay transit pass at half-price, or $65, for up to six months.
It was the second phase of an affordable transportation program established by the city in partnership with Peel Region.
The first phase of the program ran from September 2014 to August 2015 for 232 Ontario Works clients in Mississauga. Recipients paid one-third of the cost of the $120 monthly Presto e-purse.
“We think it’s money in people’s pockets at the end of the day,” said Pryzmus. “For low-income families, the savings is huge.”
To be eligible for the program, residents had to show they have annual incomes below the low-income threshold, which for a single person is $19,930 and for a two-person household, $28,185.
Officials set the maximum number of participants at 2,500.
Geoff Marinoff, director of transit for the city, said 2,500 applied, 1,800 met the eligibility criteria, 1,600 picked up Presto cards and 1,300 were activated.
“Most participants did not buy the pass every month. They would assess their anticipated transit usage for the month and decide whether the pass made sense,” said Marinoff.
The program had low intake in the first few months following its launch. City officials attributed that to timing, admitting much of program promotion took place over the summer, which is not an ideal time to get the word out.
The program was extended to encourage greater participation. It is slated to end March 31, 2017.
“The current program is being evaluated, participant feedback assessed and focus groups will continue in April,” said Marinoff, adding staff will be looking at the results from both phases before moving ahead with recommendations for a permanent program. The results will be presented to both regional and city council in the fall.
The City of Hamilton, York Region and Halton Region provide reduced transit fares for low-income individuals.
With 18 per cent of Mississauga residents living below the poverty line, there is no shortage of potential users to justify a permanent affordable transportation program.
Pryzmus said the organization has been petitioning this issue for the past few months delivered the signed petitions to city hall following Friday’s rally.
In addition to the affordable transportation pilot program, the city has a $1 senior’s fare valid during off-peak hours during the week and all day on weekends and holidays.
Eligible Mississauga food banks also receive a 50 per cent discount to purchase transit tickets. This pilot program will operate until Dec. 31, 2017.
Article by Rachael Williams for Mississauga.com