News / Edmonton

Edmonton considers low-income transit passes, if city can find the money

Council will debate the merits of low income transit pass availability and general fare increases at budget deliberations on November 27.

Low income transit passes and general fare increases some Councillors said may be affordable will be considered alongside other priorities during council's budget deliberations this month.

Hilary McDonald/ For Metro

Low income transit passes and general fare increases some Councillors said may be affordable will be considered alongside other priorities during council's budget deliberations this month.

Edmonton city councillors want to create a bus pass that’s affordable for people making smaller incomes, but they’re struggling to find the money to pay for it.

The low-income pass would cost $35 per month, 60 per cent less than the current standard price, and be sold to people who can prove their annual income is below the federal ‘low-income’ cut-off.

“There is a general agreement we should do this,” said Mayor Don Iveson on Monday. “That mobility could be life changing for certain families.”

Councillors heard Monday that up to 20,000 people would buy the pass monthly by the time it reaches full demand, in 2018, at which point its draw on the operating budget would be $8.4 million.

But Iveson said funding such a social program raises questions about whether it’s fair for municipal property-tax payers to fund “income support for poor Albertans, who happen to be over concentrated in the big cities.”

To lobby for that not to be the outcome, Iveson said he’ll meet with Premier Rachel Notley to discuss the low-income transit pass idea and other jurisdictional issues and costs next week.

Councillors voted Monday to consider providing half the money needed to create the pass in their upcoming budget. Before Monday, the proposal had no money devoted to it.

Iveson also directed administration to figure out how the pass would be rolled out.

“I think for implementation we’ve got a couple more things to explore,” he said.

The strategy administration pitched Monday is to sell the pass at City Hall, the Clareview Recreation Centre, the Millwoods Recreation Centre and the St. Francis Xavier Sport Centre.

Iveson said those areas made sense, but there are “17 front counters” around the city to take advantage of to make them even more available: Libraries.

“I think (we should look into) exploring the opportunity for those to be service delivery points for low income bus pass distribution,” he said.

General fare increases

A full schedule of fare increases was also on the table Monday, and council voted to forward all but the cash-fare increase through to budget deliberations unchanged.
For that fare, council opted to hold its increase at $3.25 until at least 2018, rather than increasing to $3.50. Iveson said that gave the city time to finish its significant public consultation on its 10-year transit strategy, and implement its smart fare system.

The proposed increases across the board for all passes would be the first bump in fares since 2013.

If approved, a monthly pass could increase from $89 this year to $91.50 in 2016, $94.25 in 2017 and $97.00 in 2018.

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