Seniors’ passes may rise from $95 to $150 but low income pass to stay at $15

Calgary Transit has proposed raising the price of the annual seniors’ transit pass from $95 to $150 per year by late 2014, according to a report sent to city council Sept. 3, 2013.

The seniors’ pass has already had a three-fold increase from $35 to $95 between 2011 and 2013.

“It’s $95 bucks a year, right. So that’s still a very good deal,” said Ron Collins, the spokesperson for Calgary Transit. “I think our rates for the senior citizens is actually still probably the lowest in the country or among the lowest in the country for sure.”

This chart from Calgary Transit shows the threshold for qualifying for the subsidized passes. Calgary Transit notes the members applying must “have a combined family income lower than the amount in the chart.”

Chart from Calgary TransitCollins added: “This was the first time in memory that the seniors’ pass had been adjusted and it was probably time to adjust. We did get feedback from seniors in Calgary that they thought to raise it to $95 a year was still a good deal and that they were more than willing to accept that.”

“One of those senior citizens is Walter Brown, 89 (No relation to author of this story). He said the potential buss pass price increase doesn’t faze him.

“I’ve always said that if it went up to a hundred that I wouldn’t mind,” Brown said.

Brown frequently uses Calgary Transit, even more now since he stopped driving three years ago.

Brown said he believes Calgary Transit is a great system, adding he has seen a lot of people take advantage of the system, riding for free on a daily basis.

“There are a lot of people that ride for nothing. They do. They cheat, cheat, cheat,” he said. “But if we got it for free, that would just be wrong.”

“It seems to me that now there is only one low option with the rest being all high. It’s not really fair.”

– Liza Chan, executive director of Calgary Chinese Elderly Citizens’ Association

Though Brown said he understands there are some Calgarian seniors who should have access to the subsidized passes, he believes wealthier individuals should pay the full price to access transit.

Seniors’ passes are available for those 65 and over, and a low-income option is available for $15 annually. Neil McKendrick, manager of transit planning, said that there are 29,500 total seniors’ transit passes available — 17,500 for regular seniors and 12,000 for low-income seniors.

Sponsored immigrants may not qualify for low income

Walter Brown, 89, depends on the busses but said that he is not bothered by the potential price increase in seniors’ bus passes from $95 to $150.

Photo by Kaity Brown  Liza Chan, executive director of the Calgary Chinese Elderly Citizens’ Association, said she thinks the seniors’ low-income transit pass is very reasonable. However, she expressed concerns over the eligibility for immigrants.

“I noticed that the City of Calgary’s fee subsidy program recently had something change.” she said. “Some of our seniors had gone to apply for the fee assistance program and they were told that if they are a sponsored immigrant that they weren’t eligible and they need to account for their household income.”

Because a number of immigrants live with their children or other family members, Chan said their total household income would be too high to apply for the $15 seniors’ pass — despite having no jobs and very limited personal income.

“If they have to account for their children’s salary, they will never get it. And that isn’t their income – it has nothing to do with them,” Chan said.

Chan said she is also concerned about how quickly the seniors’ pass has increased over the past two years and the potential increase around the corner.

“It seems to me that now there is only one low option with the rest being all high. It’s not really fair.” she said, adding that a lot of seniors will not be able to afford the $150.

These changes are currently being discussed in the city, with the final decision to be made by city council in Nov. 2013.

kbrown@cjournal.ca