As city bus cash fares rose a nickel this month to $2.90, Sault Transit was swinging special deals for more than 3,000 post-secondary students and individuals on social assistance.
Under an 11-month pilot initiative with District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB), approved by City Council this week, all individuals receiving social assistance will be given transit passes starting Feb. 1.
There are currently 2,438 social assistance recipients in the Sault who don't have their own vehicle and rely on public transportation.
The pilot may be extended up to four more years if both DSSAB and the city agree.
DSSAB will pay the city $450,000 for passes during the initial year, with $2,450,000 in total additional revenue projected if the four subsequent years are approved.
The idea is expected to cut administrative duties at both Sault Transit and DSSAB.
Currently, DSSAB issues monthly passes to about 625 clients.
Each pass must be approved by a social services case manager based on provincial and local criteria.
Approved clients are given $66 to buy a Sault Transit pass, but there's no way for the city to be sure the money is being used for that purpose..
DSSAB currently pays about $500,000 for transit passes.
Algoma University, Sault College
Also this week, city councillors passed a bylaw approving new transit pass partnerships with Algoma University and Sault College, offering unlimited access to transit services through annual student fees.
In 2017, about 585 post-secondary students were using Sault Transit semester passes: 431 from Sault College and 154 from Algoma U.
Post-secondary students also bought 991 20-ride passes, while others simply paid cash fares.
Student referendums on the transit initiative will be held by the Algoma University Student Association and Anishinaabe Student Association in February and March, and at Sault College in March.
If approved by students, eight-month pilot projects will start in September 2019 at Algoma University and September 2020 at Sault College.
If the pilots are considered successful, they may be renewed for as many as three additional eight-month terms.
Success will be determined by revenue and rider statistics, as well as demands on the transit system and service experience.
If approved by both student unions, the agreements would bring in about $420,000 in annual revenue – $223,605 more than Sault Transit currently receives from post-secondary students – with a total ridership increase of 2,915.
If only Algoma University students approve the deal, revenues would rise by just $64,560.
If only Sault College students vote for it, the added revenues would total $144,840.
Medical appointment passes for seniors
Meanwhile, City Council also approved a resolution this week from Ward 2 Couns. Lisa Vezeau-Allen and Luke Dufour, calling for 50 single-ride transit passes to be distributed each year to each of the following agencies:
- Neighbourhood Resource Centre
- The Soup Kitchen
- St. Vincent’s Place
- Pauline's Place
The single-use passes are to be provided to senior citizens who don't qualify for transit pass support from other sources for medical appointment access."Senior citizens should have the ability to attend to doctors' appointments or other medically necessary appointments to ensure their health and well-being," said the Vezeau-Allen/Dufour resolution.