Transit Fare Policy
We have heard a lot of concern about the changes in seniors transit fares and I know it will be hard on some people. We had to make adjustments in order to offer fully free transit for low-income seniors; those who need it most but can least afford it. I know the adjustment to the fare price of a senior annual pass was an abrupt change and that has caused worry for some who are on a fixed income. I appreciate hearing from you and want you to know why these changes were done.
This was not an easy decision for Council to make; however, anyone over 65 years of age is still eligible for discounted fares. The new $34 monthly senior pass and the $374 annual pass represents a reduction of about 65% of the regular adult fare. For more occasional users of ETS we have lowered the price of the senior 10-ticket pack from $23 to $19 making that option a little more attractive.
The City continues to fund more than half of transit operating costs through taxes and other revenue, with paid fares covering about half of the costs. For a number of years, we were able to provide a very low cost annual pass for seniors, but continuing that and offering the free passes for those in greatest need meant other transit riders or taxes would have to supplement more of the cost.
Public transportation is an essential service and a way for people to keep connected, involved, and mobile. I know for many seniors, this is their only way to get around. The new policy brings seniors fares in line with the other deepest discount, the Ride Transit Program for low-income adults. The Province helps with the funding for the Ride Transit Program, but does not contribute funding for the senior pass.
We knew it was not sustainable to offer the level of discount we had offered before, provide the free passes for low income seniors and keep the seniors annual pass at the former price level. Edmontonians told us they wanted to continue to offer discounts to seniors, low-income earners, students, and people with disabilities. We asked Edmontonians what would be fair in aligning those discounts and the proposed fare structure reflects their response.
There are other measures also coming in the future that will help. Options like fare capping and pay-as-you-go will be in place with the launch of the Smart Fare system that will be coming next year. Fare capping can be used instead of a monthly pass. Essentially your Smart Fare card would continue to add fares as you used transit until it met the amount of the senior monthly pass. At that point, any further rides would be essentially free for that month. So you would still have the benefit of a monthly pass but if you travelled less than the monthly pass would have cost you then you would save money in that month. Based on how much you use the service and how regularly, this may in fact get you closer to the price of the old annual pass.
As always, I welcome your feedback and input on our transit goals, and any other city matter. Please feel free to contact me at (780)496-8146, firstname.lastname@example.org or @ben_hen on Twitter.