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City continues to milk the farebox for all it's worth

<p>It’s fare hike season again in Edmonton, and this year cash fares areup a quarter to $2.75, a 10-pack of tickets will set you back $22, andmonthly passes continue to skyrocket, reaching $81.50.</p>

It’s fare hike season again in Edmonton, and this year cash fares are up a quarter to $2.75, a 10-pack of tickets will set you back $22, and monthly passes continue to skyrocket, reaching $81.50.


Regular fares aren’t scheduled to increase again until 2013, when the cash fare will reach $3 and the monthly pass gets cranked up to $89, but that’s hardly written in stone. U-Pass prices, on the other hand, are to climb to an obscene $171 by 2014, from $97 per semester (average as far as comparable Canadian programs go).


A monthly pass was $59 only three years ago, but now it’s the fourth-most expensive in Canada, just behind Ottawa and Calgary at $85. Toronto leads at $121 but gives the most.
Most other Canadian cities are charging between $70 to $74. Regina is a bargain at $59, while London is a steal at $40.


With other cities providing better service at a lower monthly cost, Edmonton is putting the squeeze on riders. Thanks to a 2007 council decision, current policy is to milk the farebox for all it’s worth.


Farebox recovery was supposed to be up nearly one per cent for 2008, but despite riders’ pain, and gas prices reaching record highs, revenue recovery actually went in the opposite direction.


With all current councillors planning to run for re-election, gouged riders might be interested in knowing that Mayor Stephen Mandel and councillors Jane Batty, Ron Hayter, Kim Krushell and Karen Leibovici were there in 2007 to support the increase.


Outnumbered in opposition were councillors Ed Gibbons and Dave Thiele. Bryan Anderson and Linda Sloan also supported former councillor Michael Phair’s proposal to reduce the increases.


Of the four councillors yet to be elected — Don Iveson, Ben Henderson, Amarjeet Sohi and Tony Caterina — I’d wager the first three would have came out against.


We can’t know for sure because current council got a free pass on transit fares at the expense of riders. With the hikes running out this year, however, the next council may be tempted to continue the upward climb.


There’s an election in October. Budget deliberations are in December. We can’t let there be another hike come February.