Edmonton city council kicks free transit idea to curb

Free rides on Edmonton buses and LRT was a short lived notion after a debate at city hall Wednesday morning.

Coun. Aaron Paquette revises motion to analyze entire transit system

Coun. Aaron Paquette suggested the city consider free rides as part of a larger move to improve service and encourage more people to take public transit. (CBC)

There won't be free rides on Edmonton buses and LRT. The idea was a short-lived notion after a debate at city hall Wednesday morning.

Councillor Aaron Paquette floated the idea last week as part of a larger bid to get more people to take public transit.

After gaining attention on social media, Paquette tweaked the wording of his original motion Wednesday, with less of a focus on fares.

He asked for city administration to do a comprehensive study of the city's entire transit system.

"Let's understand the system as fully and completely as possible before we start making decisions that impact decades of Edmontonians into the future."

His revised motion called for "identifying strategies" to improve ridership and value for service. 

Coun. Aaron Paquette, right, advocates for a comprehensive look at the benefits and potential cost savings of public transit. (CBC)

It also called for improving safety and evaluating the economic and environmental benefits of transit.

Mayor Don Iveson said the city is improving the transit system, with projects involving the bus network "which I think we all agree needs a fundamental redesign."

The city is redesigning its bus network with the new routes slated to launch in 2020.

The city is also working on a Transportation Master Plan and investing in more LRT. 

Iveson also noted the need to modernize fare collection.

"People complain you can't conveniently pay with contactless technology or even a credit card or debit card," he said. "All of which we are fixing and some of this we have been fixing, since I've been here."

But improved technology doesn't mean zero fares, Iveson said.

"Around the fare policy, I have no interest in going down that road."

Paquette reiterated the intent of his motion was to spur conversation.

"Maybe it doesn't make sense to go to zero fare, maybe that is not in the cards," he said. "But maybe it does."

Council agreed that Paquette can make another motion at the next council meeting in two weeks.

@natashariebe