EDMONTON -- More than 1,400 Edmontonians signed a petition calling for a freeze on transit fares as the cost is expected to rise.

The planned bump would see fares go from $3.50 to $3.75.

On Monday, Free Transit Edmonton an organization that believes in a fare free transit system, presented their petition to city council before council met with Edmonton Transit Service to discuss the change.

Paige Gorsak an organizer with Free Transit Edmonton, said while the 25 cent increase doesn’t seem like much, it could mean the difference of some individuals finding other modes of transportation.

“We’re seeing our bus fare go up to being one of the highest in the country,” Gorsak said. “Above Vancouver, above Toronto, above Montreal for a system that I don’t know would compare if we were looking at services offered.”

Gorsak added that she wants city council to address the rate hike and halt it from taking place.

“It’s really going to have a big impact on folks who are struggling right now during the pandemic,” she said.

“It’s taking that budget, that economic struggle that council has to deal with and putting it on those community members. They’re providing cuts to real estate developers and the city’s wealthiest.”

Gorsak also stressed that the increase would primarily impact Edmonton’s essential workers, the people who rely on public transit the most.

“A fare increase during a global pandemic will punish those who rely on our public transit system to get to their jobs at hospitals, grocery stores, and other essential services upon which we all depend,” she said.

“Transit fare increases disproportionately affect those working low-wage jobs, QTBIPOC people, migrant workers, and people with disabilities,” Cole Rockarts, another Free Transit Edmonton organizer, added.

According to Gorsak, transit ridership fell more than 44 per cent from 2019 to 2021.

Rockarts added that “raising fares will only decrease ridership,” further.

The organization would like to see the fare permanently frozen at $3.50 with a further reduction in the future similar to other publicly funded services.