AISH recipients not happy with new city policy on bus passes

File: ETS bus.
File: ETS bus. Global News

An Edmonton mother is wondering why the city has revamped the distribution system for transit passes to Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) recipients.

It used to be that the city would mail a bus pass to a client once a month and then debit their bank account for the fare. Now the client has to go to a specific rec centre and make the purchase in person.

“To just say this is it? Just from rec centres? It doesn’t seem fair,” said Jacqueline Traficante, whose brother Kevin Girard, and 21-year-old daughter Breanne both receive AISH.

“There’s got to be something else that they can offer for some of the people who are disabled.”

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She’s frustrated with the changes and doesn’t understand why seniors are sold annual passes, and post secondary students are sold semi-annual ones through the U-Pass that other arrangements can’t be made for those receiving AISH.

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AISH provides financial and health benefits to eligible to Albertans with a disability.

The reason behind the change is city council’s decision from May of 2016 to create a low-income transit pass program. The $12.4 million program is being cost shared between the city and the province over three years.

READ MORE: Low-income transit pass coming to Edmonton

Eddie Robar, who heads Edmonton Transit Service, confirmed the change and said it’s because the city is now having to deal with a nearly ten-fold increase in clients, and other services besides transit are involved.

“It’s a huge growth,” Robar said. “For us, we need to look at ways that we can deliver that service still and provide that in a way that makes sense for the volume of people.

“We’re going up to almost 40,000 people that will be on this from the low thousands.”

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“Neither my brother or my daughter are using wheelchairs, or walkers or canes,” Traficante said. “Some of the people that are, I can only imagine how hard it will be come the winter that we have.”

READ MORE: Alberta’s auditor general criticizes how AISH program is managed

“The caregivers, we have to live with it, and deal (with it) and help them.

“There are just so many wonderful people and I’d hate to think of some of them missing doctors appointments or other important things because they couldn’t get out to get a bus pass and then they’re too nervous to go with out.”

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Robar hasn’t ruled out changes.

“We’ll always re-evaluate how things are going and how that activity happens in the future. Obviously this is a big change for people in that group but we have to look at the broader scope of how we deliver that to 40,000 instead of the low thousands.”

Tuesday is the last day ETS is debiting customer accounts for the August pass, before the ETS AISH Transit Pass Program ends. They’ll be mailed out in the third week of July.

The move is being made to have the $35 subsidized passes at 10 locations – seven rec centres and three Edmonton Public Library branches, seven days a week.

READ MORE: Task force releasing new tools in fight to end poverty in Edmonton

Robar said it’s still early days in the new system so feed back is in its early stages.

“I think we need to get our process in place and see what the impact is and there’s always room for adjustments, there’s no doubt about that. This is a new one for us, especially at this volume, and how do we control that.

“So we’ll always re-asses as we go through this and look at other ways to make sure we’re delivering a top notch program.”

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The low income transit pass was a key recommendation from End Poverty Edmonton.

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