City plans to keep low-income bus pass program rolling

A new affordable bus pass piloted by the city last year helped hundreds of low-income residents in Kamloops, providing them with affordable transportation, and the city plans to continue the program.

On Tuesday, council heard from acting social and community development supervisor, Ty Helgason, for an update on the KamPASS program, which launched in September of 2019. The program provides Kamloops adults below the poverty line or receiving income assistance who fall between the cracks of provincial support a discounted bus pass at $7 per month, compared to the regular $50 per month. The province provides low-cost transportation for people with disabilities, youth and seniors. The KamPASS program aims to fill a gap amongst adults ages 19 to 59. In its first year, 332 residents took part in the program.

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“KamPASS has lowered the cost barrier for eligible residents to access transportation,” Helgason said.

Kamloops councillors touted the program’s success, but noted the program was undersubscribed.

The city had initially planned for up to 1,000 KamPASS bus passes, meaning only about a third of the program’s capacity was realized.

Coun. Arjun Singh suggested making the program as easy as possible for people to access.

“There may be actually more folks we’re leaving on the table,” he said.

Coun. Sadie Hunter stressed promotion of the program and communications. She said there are likely minimum wage employees in the community who could benefit from the program.

“Those are the people that would really benefit from being more aware,” she said.

The program is subsidized by the city, but the city says it is collecting money it would not have otherwise received from those who could not afford a regular-priced bus pass. In turn, it also helps to increase ridership numbers.

Council voted unanimously to continue the KamPASS program.

Meanwhile, the KamPASS is not the only way in which the city is helping those in need with transportation. The city also provides the United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo with single-ride bus tickets to distribute to non-profit organizations for use as an emergency transportation program. The TNRD presented on the program at city council on Tuesday, noting 8,700 tickets are distributed annually to more than two-dozen organizations, including the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society, Ask Wellness and the Boys and Girls Club. The program dates back to 2006. Comments shared with council included praise for the program from Royal Inland Hospital emergency staff, the Y Women’s shelter and methadone clinic. United Way interim executive director Katie Neustaeter told council on Tuesday she anticipates increased need, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Those numbers are increasing and there is a gap there,” she said.

The program has an annual value of about $15,000.

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