Cranbrook will now have a free bus program for low income individuals. The new provision was approved at the Monday, March 9 council meeting and will be delivered as an additional benefit to the Leisure Access Program.
Coun. Danielle Cardozo said it is an amazing initiative and matched perfectly with an earlier presentation.
“It goes perfectly with having Interior Health here today talking about healthy communities,” Cardozo said, adding that bus access, in particular for individuals in areas of the city far from grocery stores, would help many people in that situation.
The Leisure Access Program was started in 2010 to enable low-income residents to access public swimming at the Aquatic Centre with a 75 per cent discount with the intent to build a healthier community. It is run in partnership between the Salvations Army, Community Connections Society, Interior Health Programs and the Ministry of Housing and Social Development. An applicant that is approved receives the benefits for one year then has to re-apply. There were 109 applicants in 2014 and the city noted that amounted to 2,481 uses of the pool for those applicants.
Coun. Norma Blissett was strongly in favour of the motion.
“I’m also in favour of increasing bus use,” Blissett said. “This is a wonderful way to do it, and also, as you (staff) say, it helps with health concerns and accessing our leisure facilities.”
Coun. Ron Popoff also said he also supported the motion, both personally and formally as the liaison to the Cranbrook Poverty Reduction Initiative committee and the Urban Governance committee.
“Transportation keeps coming up time and time again, both for accessing groceries, medical appointments, and other purposes,” Popoff said. “This will help, but not fully resolve that. I’m certainly in favour.”
The recommendation that city staff put forward came out of a April 2014 meeting of the Family and Community Services Committee. The free bus service for low income individuals was one of the poverty reduction initiatives discussed. It was passed on to Leisure Services because it already had a process in place for the Leisure Access Program. The four partnered agencies that were also in favour of the move.
City staff wrote that they expect an increase in applications to the program because of the added benefit of free bus service.
The city also discussed the initiative with BC Transit, which noted that since the city is responsible for fares and revenue, it is the city’s choice if it wants to implement the program. However, the physical passes come through BC Transit and since it doesn’t offer annual passes, the passes will have to be issued to successful applicants monthly. That means they will have to pick them up monthly as well.
To be eligible for the Leisure Access Program you have to be a resident of Cranbrook whose income may prevent them from participating in basic recreation services. Low income is determined by the 2012 National Council of Welfare low income figures. For example the figures given are $23,298 for one person, $29,004 for two people and $35,657 for three people.
Mayor Lee Pratt was absent from the meeting.