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Students say it’s time for city to put money where mouth is on transit

Officials at Metro Transit have announced a proposal to increase transit fares by 11% or 25 cents per trip. They argue that the increase is relatively negligible and allows for various improvements to be funded without increasing transit taxes. Students question why transit users should cover the full cost of improvements to this key public asset, and are concerned that a fare increase will translate into higher U-pass costs down the road.

“Putting the full cost of transit improvements on users sends the wrong message about the direction of public transit in Halifax”, says Jonathan Williams, the Executive Director of Students Nova Scotia, which represents almost 24,000 HRM students. “Students have said many times that improving public transit has to be a priority for HRM, but the cost of those improvements which benefit everyone should at least be shared”.

Studies have shown investments in transit generate significant public benefits, including economic stimulus, reduced congestion, reduced pollution and health improvements.

Full-time university and community college students have U-passes that keep the cost of transit relatively low by group buying passes and guaranteeing revenue for Metro Transit. While the U-pass agreements protect students from the immediate impacts of the proposed fare increase, students worry the new fare will be used to justify a more expensive U-Pass in the future.

“Put simply, public transit is an investment that, by keeping the cost for users low, will have a huge social and economic return by, among other things, keeping Halifax a youthful city,” said Jared Perry, President of the Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association. “It’s clear to us that when our current U-pass agreement expires this is the type of change that will be cited in arguing for higher student contributions.”

“All Halifax residents benefit from transit, not only users,” said Williams. “How can Halifax argue that improving public transit is good for our entire community, but only a small and generally low-income part of the community should pay for it.”

Students strongly urge the city’s politicians and Metro Transit to use this as an opportunity not to make Metro Transit as expensive as other cities, but to show that Halifax is a leader in both transit affordability and quality, by putting their money where their mouth is.

Kate Elliot