Free transit for kids would cost Winnipeg $2.4M, city estimates

The city could lose about $2.4 million dollars in annual operating costs, fare losses and new bus costs if Winnipeg Transit gave free rides to kids under 12, the City of Winnipeg estimates.

The public works committee considers extending free transit to all youngsters at its next meeting Tuesday.

Currently, children under five travel gratis on Winnipeg Transit and older kids, ages six to 16 — and up to 21 if riders are still in high school — get a 30 per cent discount on a full transit fare.

To extend free rides to kids up to age 11, the city thinks it will cost $200,000 in additional annual operating costs, $834,000 in lost annual fare revenue and $1.4 million, in capital costs, to buy as many as two new buses. 

“The cost of such a program may be able to be minimized by requiring all children under the age of 12 wishing to travel for free to obtain and register a Peggo card,” the city’s report said.

Winnipeg’s public service reviewed how free transit for kids under age 13 works in other Canadian cities.

The civil servants found Toronto’s program cost $8 million in 2016 and in Edmonton, cost nearly $3 million in additional operating requirements last year. Alberta’s capital may need to buy up to 17 new buses to accommodate the new passengers.

Winnipeg’s report suggested three different ways of running a pilot project to test out for free travel for children, including piggybacking on a new low-income transit pass that is still in the works and creating an entirely new program.