EquiPass for low income people should be same as Community Bus Pass
(Letters to the Editor) Ottawa Citizen
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Community Bus Pass in Ottawa, which was brought in to provide access to public transit for people living on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program). Today the Community Bus Pass costs $41.75 a month, which is a boon for folks living on ODSP who, after deducting rent from their $1,110 monthly stipend (ODSP rate for a single adult), are often living on $300 a month or less (average rent for a bachelor apartment in Ottawa, according to CMHC, is $801 a month). These folks would not be able to afford the $105 monthly bus pass that OC Transpo now charges.
So, at first blush, the proposed EquiPass in the 2017 City Budget, for people living below the Low Income Cutoffs ($24,000 for a single person in a large city like Ottawa), is a welcome step toward making public transit available to the poor. But the EquiPass cost of $57 a month is $16 more than the Community Bus Pass, and for people on social assistance (Ontario Works) this is unaffordable. A single person on Ontario Works receives a monthly stipend of $681 which, after rent, leaves precious little to cover food, let alone a $57 monthly bus pass. No wonder our food banks are so busy.
The obvious solution is to make the EquiPass equal to the current Community Bus Pass at $41.75 a month. To do otherwise would create a 2-tier system for helping the poor gain access to public transit, penalizing those on Ontario Works who are seeking employment. Using the Community Bus Pass rate would better achieve City Council's goals.
Alex Cullen (former City Councillor)