City asked for more but mayor says cash means “Edmonton will be able to ensure our ridership rates return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024”

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The City of Edmonton is getting $66.9 million in combined funding from the federal and provincial governments to support the transit system that saw its revenue plummet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The money is part of a total of almost $159 million to support 26 Alberta municipal transit systems, announced Wednesday by Alberta Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney and Edmonton MP Randy Boissonnault.

“It’s no secret that municipal transit systems suffered losses during the pandemic with people working from home and using transit less. Ridership in Edmonton dropped by more than 40 per cent during the pandemic, while in Calgary ridership plummeted by a staggering 51 per cent,” Sawhney said.

“As people start returning to work, public transit is a critical component to Alberta’s economic recovery. Public transit is an essential service in particular for students who are returning to on-campus learning, for seniors who are accessing medical services, and other vulnerable populations who may be re-entering the workforce to get to and from work or re-engaging in social activities.”

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In February, the federal government announced that it was creating a one-time $750-million fund to help Canadian transit systems that suffered as a result of the pandemic.

At the time, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said provinces must match the funding and work with cities to quickly increase the supply of housing.

The money is not contingent on specific agreements related to housing, Sawhney said Wednesday. Boissonnault said Ottawa wanted to incentivize municipalities to reduce red tape to help meet the country’s housing demand.

“So every municipality that can step up and demonstrate to us that they’re going to speed up their housing application and permitting process is going to qualify for this funding,” he said.

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alberta released a 10-year affordable housing strategy last year

Edmonton’s share of the money is less than what the city has said it needed. Earlier this year Edmonton’s city council asked for $50.2 million in 2022 and $31.4 million in 2023 in additional operational support from the provincial and federal governments to make up the shortfall in transit revenue caused by the pandemic.

“Transit is a critical service that has been particularly hard hit during the pandemic, and today’s announcement will help to get our transit back on track,” Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said in a Wednesday press release.

“This funding will mean that Edmonton will be able to ensure our ridership rates return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, making us the first municipality to accomplish this.”

The federal Finance Department previously said funding for provinces and territories would be based on a formula that considers ridership and population counts.

The following Edmonton-area communities are also receiving a share of the cash:

Strathcona County – $1,335,318

St Albert – $795,334

Spruce Grove – $113,151

Leduc – $103,863

Fort Saskatchewan – $76,910

Beaumont – $63,901

Stony Plain – $5,000

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