Increasing Affordable Transportation Options in the Region of Waterloo

The Region of Waterloo, in southwestern Ontario, can be characterized as a dispersed urban-suburban-rural locale. Similar to other areas across Canada and the United States, affordable transportation - which can be viewed as transportation with reasonable financial and other costs - remains a struggle for people with low incomes that live in the region. This challenge is exacerbated by the dispersed structure of the Region in which many people are compelled to rely heavily on cars to move around.

To help address these challenges, the Regional government funds an innovative program to increase affordable access to public transit for people with low incomes. The Transit for Reduced Incomes Program (TRIP) - which is collaboratively administered by government and non-government partners - has been in operation for several years. TRIP provides discounted monthly bus passes to patrons with incomes below a set level that apply for the program. In 2007, enrolment in the program was approximately 1500, with 800-1200 passes sold monthly. Enrolment will be up to 2000 for 2008. (Details on the program can be provided on request.)

The Waterloo Regional Council has a strong interest in increasing affordable transportation options for people with low incomes and has identified this objective among those listed in its current strategic planning cycle. Under the lead of the Social Services department, the intention is to identify and test strategies that would increase affordable transportation options for people with low incomes. These interests are shared by the committee that oversees TRIP, which is also interested in investigating and discussing strategies - through participation and consultation of people with low incomes as well as other knowledgeable people. Given the importance of public transit as an affordable transportation option, it will be a key focus - although not to the exclusion of other possible options.

So far, this initiative has involved two stages.  First, to inform participatory and consultation processes, research was carried out to identify activities, programs and other types of support that are offered here in the Region of Waterloo and elsewhere, with a particular focus on Grand River Transit and other transit agencies.  Information was gathered through surveys and interviews and results are presented in the report: Investigating Affordable Transportation Options in the Region of Waterloo with a Focus on Public Transit.  The results identify Waterloo Region as a leader in this area.  The report provides a brief summary of the few programs similar to TRIP, other transit-related programs and other types of programs and support.  

The next stage of this work brought key people together to share ideas and to identify and evaluate options that have potential for effective implementation here in the Region.  Meetings involved a mix of people from Regional government and local not-for-profit agencies with relevant interest and experience.  Results and recommendations from these consultations are presented in a second report: Increasing Affordable Transportatino Options in the Region of Waterloo: A Selection of Options.

Consideration and investigation of the options and recommendations is ongoing and is expected to include development of a pilot program(s) and further consultations as considered necessary for assessment, testing and implementation of recommendations. 

 

This research/consultation process has been carried out by the Civics Research Co-operative under the direction of David Dirks, Director, Employment and Income Support, Social Services, Region of Waterloo and the TRIP Committee. Questions and requests to participate in this reseach or to obtain additional information can be directed to Beth Dempster (beth@civics.ca or 519-570-9521) or to David Dirks (dirksdav@region.waterloo.on.ca 519-883-2179 Fax: 519-883-2234).