Edmonton

Discounted bus passes pondered for low-income Edmontonians

Discounted bus passes for low income Edmontonians could be available by next year, but first the city needs to figure out how to determine who qualifies for the cheaper fares.

City struggles with how to get passes to those who need them while preventing abuse of program

Discounted bus passes for low income Edmontonians could be available by next year, but first the city needs to figure out how to determine who qualifies for the cheaper fares.

The passes, which would cost $36 per month compared to $89, would cost the city roughly between $4 million and $8 million, said Mayor Don Iveson.

"This is an opportunity for Edmontonians to support its most vulnerable people," he said. "If these people are more able to get to services, get to education, get to their work places … that's better for our city."

But the best minds from the city's social agencies struggled to determine how the city should go about identifying those who would qualify for the discounted pass without humiliating or scaring them off.

"Proving income is difficult," said Karen Good with YESS, Youth Empowerment & Support Services. "The tests that are currently suggested in place will be difficult for our youths to prove."

Coun. Ben Henderson worried about making the qualification process cumbersome.

"If we make this so complicated, then we're not going to be getting it to the people who will be needing it most."

Even with an imperfect system the revenue loss to the city due to abuse of the program would actually be less than the cost of administering distribution of the passes, Henderson said.

"We'll spend a million dollars worrying about fraud that could go into the program."

Iveson, who believes the passes would be an integral part of the city's poverty reduction strategy, agreed.

"We're not losing any money here," he said. "They're either on the system today and not paying or using donate-a-ride tickets."

Administration will return with potential solutions in the fall.

Iveson said the city will join Calgary, which has offered discounted passes for years, in seeking funding from the province.

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