‘Lifetime transit passes’ called wasteful
(CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
TransLink executives have given its board of directors new powers to issue “lifetime transit passes,” replacing a policy that offered free rides for some public sector workers.
On July 1, TransLink eliminated a long-standing policy that allowed police officers, firefighters, postal workers and others to take transit for free upon showing their badges.
It was a cost-cutting move, according to the transport authority, eliminating BC Transit’s practice of offering free rides since before TransLink’s formation in 1999.
Similar to the government workers’ passes, the lifetime passes have been available — as a reward for contributions to TransLink — since that time, said TransLink spokeswoman Jiana Ling.
The difference is the board of directors has the power to hand out lifetime golden tickets — as long as a resolution is passed each time — to anyone directors choose. The approval of the policy, effective Feb. 26, is documented in paperwork for last month’s Transit Police board meeting.
About 80 lifetime passes were issued prior to February, Ling said, usually to past members of various boards of directors and the mayors’ council.
No passes have been issued to date under the new policy.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the TransLink Mayors’ Council have both voiced their disapproval.
CTF’s Jordan Bateman said lifetime passes should be forbidden.
“If cost savings are really the number one drive behind getting rid of these legacy passes, which it should be, then you shouldn’t be handing out more lifetime passes in the future,” he said on Wednesday.
North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton, chair of the Mayors’ Council, said free passes for anyone except for government workers on the job — as their employers are taxpayers — are unacceptable.
“Quite frankly, the public transportation doesn’t need to subsidize people with free passes.”
Ling, however, said it’s unfair to compare the lifetime passes to the eliminated government workers’ passes, as they serve different purposes. She said the new rules were intended to improve the administration of lifetime passes.
“These lifetime passes are not given out like candy,” she said.
Board members and the Mayors’ Council, according to TransLink policy, receive free transit passes for use during appointments.
Employees also receive passes during their employment, and retirees and their spouses are eligible for free transit passes as part of their employment agreements, Ling said.
(A correction has been made to reflect it was TransLink's executives that approved the new policy for the board of directors. The board of directors did not pass the new policy for itself.)