Edmonton city council pumps the brakes on planned transit cash fare increase, freezes rate at $3.50 for 2022

Article content

Edmonton city councillors unanimously hit the brakes on a planned hike to the transit cash fare from $3.50 to $4 in February.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Late Wednesday evening, council opted to freeze the cash fare at $3.50 for another year, approving $3.5 million in COVID-19 response funds — of which there was $8 million remaining — to overcome the projected loss in revenues from the freeze. If the increase were to go forward, Edmonton’s cash fare would have been among the highest in Canada.

Earlier this year, the previous council opted against lifting the fare to $3.75, raising concerns that it could impact people’s willingness and ability to use the transit system at a time when the city is trying to get people back on the system.

The city’s new Arc Card smart fare system will also provide a discounted single-trip fare for $3 for those who use the electronic payment system, but it has been long delayed and won’t be available to the general public in February when the fare was set to spike. A pilot program with 500 users will be launching in January with broader rollout to the public throughout 2022.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

All other tickets and passes are still slated to see a two per cent fare increase starting in February. As this is the end of the four-year budget cycle, council will need to approve new fees starting in 2023 and it isn’t clear what the plans for the cash fare are long term.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said people have been struggling during the pandemic and just starting to return to the transit system and now is not the time to increase the fare.

“Things have been tough for many, many Edmontonians, particularly those living on a low-income,” he said. “If we can reduce the added burden of increased fares on them, at least for one year, it really helps make a difference in their lives because without this kind of relief they’d be most impacted.”

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Council made several decisions on the operating budget Wednesday, including providing $600,000 in one-time grant funding to the Free Play for Kids program next year, with findings to be reported back to decide on future funding in the next budget cycle. Also approved was a $1.1-million program to reinstate the mechanical weed control program, rather than focusing on the use of herbicides.

There are still over 15 amendments to be discussed before the 2022 property tax levy and budgets can be approved. If they all move forward, the city’s finance team is projecting an increase in the proposed tax levy. It was previously sitting at 1.8 per cent but could be closer to 2.13 per cent if all amendments move forward.

Council’s budget discussions are slated to wrap Friday. A full list of amendments can be found here.

duscook@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dustin_cook3

Advertisement

Story continues below

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

View original article here Source