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Free Calgary Transit during coronavirus pandemic, councillor suggests

The prospect of free transit in Calgary during the coronavirus pandemic was raised, while councillors provided a measure of relief for low-income citizens.

At Monday’s city council meeting, councillors approved a measure that allowed low-income transit pass users to continue using their March pass in April.  

During the earlier discussion on Calgary’s state of local emergency and how the city would handle a previously-approved $24 million in budget cuts in the SAVE program, Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart asked if free transit could be considered in the interim.

“With the hardship that many citizens are facing, and I would say, let’s not be asking for low-income passes, it’s no income,” she said.

“And so, if you could at least have that on the books, as a gesture of goodwill to our citizens, I’m sure there’s going to be some sort of cost recovery in the future down the road.”

Immediately after, Coun. George Chahal threw his support behind it.

“I’d like to echo what Councillor Colley-Urquhart said – that’s a great thought. And something we definitely should consider,” Chahal said.

Cost of Calgary Transit a barrier with citizens suffering pain of job loss, reduced hours, said Rev. Greenwood-Lee

Rev. Anna Greenwood-Lee, spokeswoman for the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good, said free transit during this time would be an ideal measure in the short term.

“I think tons of people who are shift workers and those who work minimum wage jobs, or people that are going to feel the financial crisis crunch during this pandemic, and the more we can do to help them, the better,” she said.

“Making transit free is kind of one less thing that people have to worry about.”

She said Calgarians without other modes of transportation still need to get to appointments, get groceries or other services, that’s a barrier.

“We need the community to get to the services they need when they need them,” said Greenwood-Lee.

It’s even more important for the thousands who are laid off as businesses shut down leaving people out of work – especially those who work in restaurants, bars, and other service or recreation industries.

“If they’re going to see no paycheck or very reduced paychecks in the weeks to come, then the least we can do for them is let them get on transit for free,” said Greenwood-Lee.