A proposal to offer a $35 monthly transit pass to people with low incomes is being welcomed by people who teach English to newcomers in Edmonton.

On Wednesday, City Council's Transportation Committee voted unanimously to support the  three-year-pilot program to offer the pass, which normally costs $89, to low-income residents, new immigrants and refugees.

Committee Chair Bruce Robertson said they’ve been pushing for the idea for some time.

“It provides all sorts of socio-economic benefits [and] will improve the lives of thousands of people in the city of Edmonton, and that will improve the city itself,” he said.

Mahenaz Layton, head of the ESL program at the Project Adult Literacy Society, is part of the delegation advocating for the pass.

She says most of her students use public transit.

“Most of my students are low-literacy, they can’t get good jobs, they’re on low income,” said Mahenaz, “And $89 a month is very hard for them to budget.”

Turgay Kamisloglu, 33, is one of Layton’s students. The Turkish refugee came to Edmonton seven months ago and needs to learn English in order to become an airplane mechanic.

Turgay Kamisloglu

Turgay Kamisloglu says it is difficult for him to afford a regular $89 monthly transit pass. (Courtesy of Turgay Kamisloglu)

“I am on welfare, $627 by month,” he said. “I cannot buy [a] bus pass for nearly $100. I need English to get a job.”

Calgary Transit has offered a low-income pass since 2006, which cost $5.3 million in 2012.

However, a report from the Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board estimates the cost to be about 40 per cent of that as Calgary includes AISH recipients. ETS already has a separate AISH pass.

A report on their results is expected to reach council by the fall, with the goal of having the low income pass in place by January.