I mentioned in one of my previous posts that sooner or later City Council will have to start making some hard and potentially unpopular choices. I’m going to outline one of them here.
Back in 2006 the City made an agreement with the Province to provide discounted bus passes to people who were clients of social services. Currently if you are receiving benefits from the Saskatchewan Assistance Plan (SAP otherwise know as “welfare”), the Saskatchewan Employment Supplement (SES), and a couple of other programs, you can purchase a discounted bus pass for $27. The Province currently pays the City $24.50 for each of these passes. This is a significant discount from the full retail price of an adult pass ($81), or even the “low income discount” of 20% (or $64.80) that Saskatoon Transit offers (since 2010) to people who meet the threshold.
Now this effectively means that the City is picking up an expense that should be paid for by the Province. If the Province wants the people in the aforementioned programs to have a bus pass, the Province should be purchasing them from Saskatoon Transit at the full retail price, or at least the 20% low income discount price, which is also the same as the price of the Eco-Pass offered to employers.
Based on the numbers from the City’s financial statements, and the 2014 and 2015 budgets, the City effectively has lost or forgone between $8 million and $16.5 million dollars in revenue since 2006. Enough money to put between 20 and 40 new buses on the road, a big dent in the capital replacement shortfall.
Now I’m sure I’ll get some hate mail from people assuming I think this discounted bus pass program should end. That’s not what I am suggesting. This is something the Province should be paying for. By off loading this onto the City the provincial government is depriving Saskatoon Transit of badly needed funds. The Provincial Government provides no funding for public transit at all (unlike most other provinces), and this sweetheart deal understates their own expenses with respect to the cost of providing social assistance to people who need it.
The Province should be funding public transit, as most other provinces do. If the Province also wants to provide bus passes for recipients of various provincial assistance programs (they should), then the Province should be purchasing them at the regular retail price, or at the very least, the same discount offered to low income residents or Eco Pass customers.