Red Deerians who use transit as a mode of transportation can expect to pay more.
In day three of operating budget deliberations, City council passed a 3% increase in transit fares, which will bring in $120, 360 for the City.
The impact will mainly be on seniors and Red Deer College students, with students expected to see a 7% increase per semester.
This will bring their cost for semester passes from $140 to $150. Seniors can expect to pay $62 as opposed to $60 in monthly passes.
The rate increase will begin September of this year, and will run until August of 2019.
Councillor Lawrence Lee said he wasn’t surprised for the increase in fees.
“I think because we had frozen fees last year, it was imminent, and I’m a firm believer that you’re always just delaying the inevitable when you look at freezing fees,” said Lee.
He added that he believes there’s a need to drive change in the transit system.
“One of the things that I’ve always noticed and heard throughout the public during my 10 years as a City councillor is the fact that transit becomes a big item within the community,” he said, adding that there’s a need to address the inefficiencies in the transit system.
He said facilitating mobility is important within the community, but doesn’t support the inefficient use of transit.
The need to drive that change, he said, is the need to create efficiencies where the future may bring opportunities like creating apps that allow citizens to be able to call for buses on demand.
It was stated in the meeting that the City of Red Deer subsidizes Action Bus fares at 93% which is right around the Canadian average at 92%.
The conventional buses, however, are subsidized at around 61% while the Canadian average sits at around 45%.
“The City of Red Deer chooses our rates based on what we feel the citizens can afford, what our threshold is for providing a service and our desire to want to have full cost recovery,” said Sarah Cockerill, director of community services.
In the past, City council was adamant in advocating to the government that Red Deer should receive the same subsidy that Edmonton and Calgary receive for transit subsidy.
Councillor Dianne Wyntjes said that although they were unsuccessful in doing that, there is still a need in the community for transit.
“We don’t have the large populations but we still have the need in our community for individuals who ride the bus for work and recreation and they rely on it as their mode of transportation,” she said.
She added that she is hopeful there will be value in the Transit Master Plan, adding that council has been waiting to do some of that work and look at how they might address the challenges they’ve been hearing regarding empty buses.
She is hopeful that through the Transit Master Plan that they will look to some innovations that might work for the community.