Hundreds get London Transit bus pass discount by mistake

It’s a mistake with a price tag as high as $140,000.

More than 400 lucky bus riders snuck through the back door of a new pilot program thanks to a staff slipup - writes

Applications for a subsidized $52 pass for low-income adults opened in December, but the city mistakenly posted the wrong eligibility requirements, using the gross income cutoffs rather than after-tax rates.

An extra 402 riders who actually are above the after-tax low-income threshold set by Statistics Canada were approved for the program before staff caught the mistake near the end of January.

“Unfortunately, inadvertently, we made a mistake,” said Cheryl Smith, a manager at city hall.

“We’re very apologetic (for) that, and to help rectify that, we grandfathered all those who were affected.”

They’ll be allowed to purchase discounted passes for 12months (riders must have their eligibility for the program re-assessed every year). The difference between a year’s worth of discounted and full-price passes, which go for $82 a month, for all those riders is about $140,000.

“It doesn’t really mean anything for folks in the real world who have already applied,”

Coun. Jesse Helmer, who’s also a London Transit commissioner, said of the mistake.

“My own view would be, we should maybe look at changing

it to before-tax (low-income cutoff).”

That’s something council could consider after the two-year pilot wraps up, Smith said.

The pass appears to be taking off, with more than 600 discounted passes sold in January and 922 passes sold in the first five days of February.

So far, about 2,000 Londoners have applied for the program.

“This is about making public transportation more accessible, particularly for Londoners living in low income,” Smith said.

A single adult is only eligible with an after-tax income of less than $17,485. A family of five must have an after-tax household income less than $37,646 to qualify.

The low-income pass was somewhat contentious because it replaced discounted bus tickets and passes for seniors. Older riders who still have senior bus ­tickets kicking around can return them for a refund, or use them if they’re willing to toss an extra quarter into the fare box.

It’s a compromise the London Transit Commission (LTC) settled on as a goodwill gesture for

seniors who need to use up their tickets.

Coun. Phil Squire, LTC’s second council representative, said the goal of the low-income pass is to increase ridership. If the pilot results in a big loss of senior riders, council should look at other ways to bring them back on board, he said.

As for the staff error, Squire said he wasn’t too worried.

“Right away, (staff) said, ‘We made a mistake.’ I much prefer that to the people who don’t tell you,” he said.

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