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Kitchener council backs bid for free transit on election days

Kitchener councilors have voted unanimously to join the cities of Cambridge and Waterloo in asking for free regional transit on election days
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The City of Kitchener is echoing a call from the cities of Cambridge and Waterloo for free transit on election days.

Kitchener councillors unanimously passed a motion on Monday asking the region to consider offering free rides to the polls as a way to help boost voter turnout.

"I think, more than ever, we need to remove all the barriers to help all residents get out to vote and, as noted in the 'whereas', this is for the sake of democracy," said Councillor Bil Ioannidis who introduced the motion. "I know Cambridge and Waterloo have also passed similar motions but I encourage you, Mr. Mayor, and regional council to place this item on a regional committee agenda to at least have the debate."

That call, meantime, is also coming from the region's student population.

"By providing free access to public transit services on election day, we can collectively eliminate this unnecessary barrier to voting which disproportionately affects youth, racial and cultural minorities, persons with disabilities, and other communities within our region," said Sana Banu, President, Conestoga Students Incorporated.

Cambridge Ward 7 Councillor Scott Hamilton pitched the idea to city councillors there earlier this year where the motion to ask the region to consider it was unanimously accepted.

Offering free transit is not a new idea, it's something already offered for example as a way of encouraging people not to drink and drive like on New Year's Eve or during Oktoberfest.

Those two events were cited during Monday's council meeting though, while supportive of the motion, Kitchener's mayor said this would likely be a bit different. 

"That obviously wouldn't be the case in this particular ... well, I guess it could be but I doubt a brewery would come forward and sponsor it like they do those other two events," said Berry Vrbanovic.

Now it's been approved, the motion will be forwarded to the region which is expected to consider the issue ahead of the next municipal election in the fall.