The city of Calgary is going to have to find up to $4 million to help pay for a program that offers deeply discounted Calgary Transit fares.
In April, the city introduced a sliding scale fare structure that, based on income, could see a person pay between $5.05 and $50.50 per month for a transit pass.
The program has been successful, with 70,000 passes sold in the first three months. Of those, 49,000 were the least expensive low-income passes.
“This sliding scale has turned what has been a poverty trap into a springboard out of poverty.” said community facilitation and engagement specialist Darrell Howard, speaking to council’s community and protective services committee.
“Instead of life existing for these folks in the free fare zone (downtown), or where you can walk to in your community, this pass makes it ready access for people to access opportunities and resources in the community that so many of us here today take for granted.”
Councillor Richard Pootmans said the program is a classic example of human values and the business case for economic development coming together.
“If our city is going to compete in the world … for investment, why do it with one hand tied behind our back, when a lot of people would like to work at jobs, perhaps, that a lot of other people might not want sometimes? We’re liberating a huge part of our workforce.”
Calgary has offered a low-income transit pass for more than a decade, but it was only last year the provincial government provided any funding for the program.
The NDP government announced it’s giving $4.5 million annually from 2017 to 2019. Despite that investment, Calgary Transit will face a revenue shortfall of $3 to $4 million.
Meanwhile, administration will return to council in November with a plan to deal with the shortfall . That could include lobbying the province for more money and trying to tap into federal funding under the Liberal government’s poverty reduction strategy.
Administration predicts it will sell 306,960 passes in 2018, which is an increase of 56 per cent over actual sales of low-income passes in 2016.
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