Regina advocacy group continues calls for fare-free transit for youth

” … the cost of it is something that they either can’t afford or makes other modes of transit seem much better.”

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A passionate youth-led group is continuing its calls for fare-free transit for all youth 18 and younger in Regina.

Part of that group is Daniel Leibman, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student and head of Better Bus Youth, “a youth-led and youth-made community organization that strives to achieve fare-free transit” for youth.

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Leibman moved to Canada from Israel around nine years ago and said transit was his main mode of transportation up until high school.

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“I, myself pretty much stopped using it altogether and I feel like that’s the case with many other youth,” he said.

“It’s not that they wouldn’t use the transit, but that simply the cost of it is something that they either can’t afford or makes other modes of transit seem much better.”

In July 2022, Regina city council voted to make transit free to youth 13 years of age and younger, and remove the requirement that they must be accompanied by a fare-paying adult. Before the change, Better Bus Youth had called on the city to offer free bus fares to all youth under the age of 18.

“Personally, I care about it a lot because it’s cost me job opportunities,” Leibman said.

He said one of his first jobs was a 30-minute walk from his school. While it was a nice walk in the summer, he was no longer able to get there in the winter. With shifts finishing after 10 p.m., he felt unsafe walking home from downtown.

“Something like buses would have provided me a safe mode of transportation to get to work, that would have been much better and easier than having to walk there or rely on parents to get there.”

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Leibman said Better Bus Youth has been advocating for the cause through art and “giving people in the community a voice to speak through art.”

“We’ll be looking forward to making some art as a group, and a chance for individuals to make their own art,” he said.

The organization has secured a space at Regina City Hall and the Dunlop Art Gallery to display art next year. Leibman said they displayed art in the Dunlop Art Gallery last year.

The group was set to host a press conference and art event on Saturday, Dec. 2 at the Sherwood Village Public Library in support a fare-free transit pilot program for youth. The speakers at the event included Regina youth and public officials.

“Currently, an immediate cost effective and high-impact solution to some of these problems is running a targeted fare-free transit pilot program,” Leibman said.

“This would be an immediate solution to some of these problems and it would provide the needed data to support a larger scale fare-free transit program.”

Leibman said Better Bus Youth is currently working on securing a federal grant that would cover 80 per cent of the cost of the program. They are also working with school boards and the provincial government to secure funding. He added if the grant isn’t secured by the deadline for budget delegations, they will ask councillors to pass the fare-free transit pilot program in the city budget, “the first step to a full fare-free public transit for youth.”

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Fare-free transit isn’t the only aspect the organization is focused on. Leibman said a key part is making sure buses are consistent and not overcrowded.

“Part of increasing that ridership for youth isn’t just providing free transit, it’s providing better transit.”

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