Anti-poverty advocates in Ottawa want the city to eliminate transit payments for those who rely on income-support programs.
Dozens of community organizations have signed a letter addressed to members of Ottawa city council urging them to vote to eliminate all transit fees for people who receive money through the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works.
The organizations, some of which held a rally and news conference on Wednesday, argue while those recipients qualify for a reduced monthly pass of $43.25 per month, that is still too expensive.
That works out to anywhere from four to eight per cent of a recipient's fixed monthly income.
"I am currently paying full market rent, 50 per cent of my own income, this leaves me very little to pay for anything else," said Susan Horvath, who is on ODSP.
Horvath said she feels "trapped" and can't afford dental care, glasses or pain management treatment.
Social services pick up the bill
Social service workers say the cost of transit has become unattainable for families they work with.
Faduma Yusuf, executive director of Britannia Woods Community House, says her agency spends a sizeable portion on travel supports to help clients get their basic needs met.
"Without free transit, we are seeing families pull together a lot of resources to simply secure a vehicle," said Yusuf, whose organization works with low-income residents, many of whom are from racialized communities or are new Canadians.
Yusuf said her clients have to use transit to attend essential services, such as immigration or mental health appointments. She also pointed to free transit as a way to end the cycle of poverty that particularly newcomer, Black and racialized families face.
Coun. Catherine McKenney, who also attended the press conference, said they are part of a working group at the city looking at ways to provide free transit, or reduced transit fares, for those who rely on the two support programs.
McKenney said a report is forthcoming in the fall, which could influence the next budget.