Children under the age of 13 in Regina will soon be able to hop on a city bus free of charge.
Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve the decision.
The changes won't come into effect immediately as the city solicitor must prepare amendments to the Regina Transit Fare Bylaw that will specify a start date.
The decision brings the City of Regina in line with cities like Edmonton, Winnipeg, Victoria and Windsor, all of which offer free transit fare to anyone under the age of 12.
Coun. Shanon Zachidniak was successful in removing language that would've only granted the free transit fare if the children were accompanied by a paying adult.
Zachidniak's amendment passed unanimously by a vote of 9-0, with the councillor justifying the change by saying that it's possible a child could be accompanied by an older sibling or babysitter who was not an adult.
"I just don't think is an appropriate distinction," Zachidniak said.
While the decision received unanimous support on Wednesday, some speakers attempted to push council to go even further.
Florence Stratton, who was one of the people that spoke at council on Wednesday urged council to expand the free fare to anyone 18 and under and anyone attending high school "in the name of climate action."
"If fair free transit is only offered to those than 13 and under, teenagers are likely to view riding the bus as only for children, as something to be put away with other childish things," said Stratton.
Stratton may get her wish but it will not come immediately.
Amendment for daytime fares
Coun. Daniel LeBlanc moved an amendment to provide free transit fare to high school students, as well as seniors, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The amendment passed with only Coun. Bob Hawkins voting against. That means a decision on expanding free transit fares will be made some time during the 2023 budgeting process.
After Coun. Landon Mohl left the meeting late in the debate, council voted 7-1 to approve an increase to paratransit charter rates, which will help cover the increasing cost of service from the decision on Wednesday.
As of Sept. 1, 2022, the lift-equipped contract cost is set to $60.62 per hour but that fee will slowly increase over time. By July 1, 2025, the rate will have risen to $64.58 per hour.
City administration said the only impact the rate increase will have on paratransit users is on those who use the charter service, the majority of which is purchased by the schools districts in Regina.
A paratransit recreation program means that individuals or non-profits that look to organize a paratransit charter will have the hourly fees halved.