The city will explore the possibility of offering free transit on election days to help encourage residents to vote, but it won’t be in time for the provincial election on June 12.
Guelph NDP candidate James Gordon made the request at Tuesday’s Operations, Transit, & Emergency Serves Committee meeting.
“I’ve been knocking on doors in low income areas and there’s a new interest in voting,” Gordon told committee members. “They want to become new voters but there are barriers to doing that. Transit is one.”
Gordon pulled out three maps of the city: one showing where low and high income earners live; one showing where transit users live; and one showing voter turnout in the last election.
Low voter turnout clearly overlapped with low income and high transit use.
“I don’t care who they vote for, I just want to get them to the polls,” Gordon said. “People are disengaged from the process. If we can make it simpler for them, we can grow the vote.”
Most constituency offices will offer free rides to polling stations for people who call, “but they have to be engaged enough to enquire,” Gordon said.
Mayor Karen Farbridge noted that Guelph Storm ticket-holders can ride Guelph Transit for free on the day of the game and wondered if there was some way voters could show their voter’s card and ride for free as well.
Coun. Leanne Piper suggested providing chits that constituency offices could distribute when asked.
The turnaround is just too quick to have a system in place for June 12, said Derek McCaughan, executive director of operations, transit & emergency services.
City staff was directed to explore how to offer such a program, how to promote it and how to monitor its usefulness on Election Day. It will not be in place for this election, but McCaughan noted that Clean Air Day is June 4, a day when Guelph Transit will be free and when advanced polls are open.
McCaughan said it costs about $10,000 a day to operate the city’s bus system.