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Low Income Bus Pass Users on Halifax Transit Face Stigmatization



Halifax residents on income assistance have complained that a newly introduced program that provides free bus passes is causing them stigmatization from other riders.  This program which grants special annual bus passes to about 3, 000 low income earning residents was created as a result of combined community service efforts from the Halifax Department of Community Services and Halifax Transit.

According to the report on TheStar.com, a resident JonethanBrigley,who is presently benefiting from the program complained that he’s already been singled out four times by transit riders who’ve never seen a pass with an image before. “(The new passes) look absolutely different than the regular monthly bus passes because the picture ID makes it stand out. I have to quickly show the driver and put it back. But if passengers see it before I put it away, then it can start,” Brigley said in an interview.

“One asked me, ‘Is that a new pass?’ I said it was a special pass, and they said, ‘Oh, it’s the ones from social assistance,’ and so the whole thing of being on social assistance comes up. And the fact is, they see me in my uniform, a black shirt with the company name on it, they see me, a working person, on assistance, and then it basically is like fuel for fire.”

Apparently, the bus passes were designed to contain a photo ID, looking different from the normal resident bus passes and resembling the Halifax Transit EPasses, used by employees of the organizations that partner with Halifax Transit to offer bus passes through a payroll deduction.

Brigley who claims to be working full time during the school year and part time throughout the summer, says his total income is still inadequate, thereby qualifying he and his partner qualify for income assistance. However, he says when co-passengers see his special bus pass; he gets unsolicited advice on getting a get a better paying job and stop relying on income assistance.

Patricia Hughes, Halifax Transit’s planning and schedule manager, has however responded, saying that the chances of people getting stigmatized as a result of these new income assistance Epasses was really low. She mentioned that there are 900 EPass users and now about 3,000 passes for income-assistance clients that look almost identical.

“There really wouldn’t be a way for anyone to know, especially as you’re getting on a bus and you show the pass to an operator. People aren’t looking that closely at them generally,” Hughes said.

Chair of Halifax’s Transportation Standing Committee,Tim Outhit, appeared more bothered about these complaints, stating, “It’s ironic because we purposely didn’t want these things to stick out. To those using them, we are pleased that these have been released and we purposely wanted them to look like the EPasses … For those making these (derogatory) comments? It’s really none of their business and it’s unfortunate that they point these things out because we want to be inclusive and welcoming and caring and have everybody using transit,” says the report.