Council delays cash fare increase for Edmonton transit users

City council voted Wednesday to delay increasing the cash fare for Edmonton transit users.

The adult cash fare for a ride on the Edmonton Transit Service was scheduled to go up from $3.50 to $3.75 this May.

Council voted 12-1 Wednesday to delay that increase until February 2022.

Read more: Edmonton group attempting to stop public transit fare increase

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said a number of factors played into the decision to delay the fare increase.

“One of the things that was persuasive to council in the debate over the last week on this is that when the smart card comes in later this year, the pop-on rate is only going to be $3. So a lot of councillors asked whether it would be really fair to folks who don’t get that smart card to have to pay $3.75. So we’re going to keep it at $3.50 to narrow the gap,” he said.

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“But also so that there is still a spread because we want to encourage people to get on that smart card train, so to speak, when it comes later this year and take advantage of not just that incentive, but fare capping and a number of things that smart card makes possible that cash fares don’t.”

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The ETS Smart Fare system involves a pre-paid tap card that will allow for more flexible transit pay options, including pay-as-you-go, distanced-based fares and best fare.

In the first phase, customers will be able to use a Smart Fare card to tap on/off transit and pay a flat fee for their trip. Customers can take advantage of fare capping up to a daily or monthly maximum amount.

In later phases, customers will be able to take advantage of open payment using their credit card, debit card or compatible devices to tap on/off transit in seven participating municipalities: Edmonton, St. Albert, Strathcona County, Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc, Spruce Grove and Beaumont.

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Read more: Border closure due to COVID-19 puts brakes on Edmonton transit’s smart fare system

Iveson said the COVID-19 pandemic also played a role in the decision to freeze the cash fare.

“People are both struggling economically in many cases but also, it is in our interest to reduce barriers to accessing the transit system and a fare hike in the middle of the third wave just didn’t feel right.”

A one-time ETS budget reduction of $473,000 was also approved in order to defer the transit fare increase, which will be funded by a transfer from the Financial Stabilization Reserve.

“It is on a one-time basis. So the next council is going to have to revisit what the right fares should be,” Iveson added.

Councillor Mike Nickel was the lone councillor to vote against the motion.

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