Centre For Family Equity

City of Vancouver Reduced Fare Transit Pilot Project

Investigating the impact of free transit on low-income communities. 

Transportation is inextricably linked to people's social and economic well-being and their ability to access the systems that support them. In September 2021, the City of Vancouver launched a pilot project to assess the impacts and benefits of free-fare transit for low-income city residents.  

We were one of four community partners invited to carry out the pilot project in collaboration with the City of Vancouver. 

The pilot provided 100 participants with free one-zone TransLink Compass Card passes for six months from October 2021 to the end of March 2022. The Centre for Family Equity (then the Single Mothers’ Alliance) was responsible for recruiting a total of 30 pilot participants. Three lone-caregiver peer researchers impacted by the issue were recruited from within our membership to carry out data collection and analysis. 

Pilot participants included a diversity of youth, lone-mothers, and family members living below the poverty line in Vancouver, including women living in transition shelters. No participating families had access to a vehicle or any other form of transportation other than transit. The pilot was guided by a research committee of the four community partners, city staff, TransLink staff, and peer researchers. 

Read our full research report with data from focus groups we held within the pilot project engaging parents on the impact of the free passes on their at-risk youth.  

The impact of free transit on low-income youth pilot project participants led to the development and launch of the Transit for Teens campaign in January 2023.

In January 2023 we released a recommendation letter to the provincial government advocating for the extension of the Get On Board program up to age 18 in BC. 

To take action in support of Transit for Teens send a message to your MLA today

My son, he's got the pass and has actually joined a couple of afterschool programs now. The pass gets him to and from and he doesn't have to worry about whether or not he catches me in the morning to give him tickets, and to see if I even have enough tickets.

– Mother of teen pilot project participant 

The results from the pilot are to be used in discussions for further funding and policy development related to the City’s endorsement of the #AllOnBoard campaign. The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition’s #AllOnBoard campaign advocates for free transit for all starting with free transit for 0-18. 

Every time I handed the bus pass to my kid, he felt really like, wow, we have money on it. And we didn't have to say, oh, 'can you give us a ride here' to the bus driver, and he was so happy to actually tap it. And I was happy because he loves being on the bus. So, it also helped me to connect more with him because we would take long trips, we wouldn't just stay in this [our] area.

– Parent of teen pilot project participant