The Evolution of ETS

Good public transit and access to a variety of transportation options are essential for Edmonton. When the City’s Transit Strategy was launched in 2014, it was framed to encourage wide consultation and open possibility thinking. Planners asked the question, “What would our city’s public transit system look like in an ideal world?”

Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world. Delivery of transportation options has to contend with complex realities and difficult trade-offs. We have to balance the pressures of urban sprawl with convenience, affordability with sustainability, and attracting new riders with maintaining accessibility for existing riders. Two main questions influence the shape, size, and frequency of our transit system:

  1. Should transit be focused on wide geographic coverage or efficiency of travel?; and
  2. Should transit be an equitable public good or a market-oriented revenue stream?

Essentially, these questions boil down to the issues of quantity vs. quality.

Right now, the route guide standard is for every household in Edmonton to have a bus stop within 400m of their doorstep, where feasible. But many of these stops have a very low service level. Research shows that frequency is the biggest driver of high transit ridership – and high ridership is the necessary ingredient for more transit revenue, which decreases reliance on the tax levy to support operations.

After two years of public transit consultations, the proposed Transit Strategy solution to our current transit issues was released last week. According to the report before City Council, the Transit Strategy “will result in a modernized public transit system that reflects citizen priorities.”

As it stands, the Transit Strategy reduces six bus routes within Ward 5 – cuts that impact nearly every neighbourhood in the Ward. Even with some of the fastest-growing neighbourhoods in the city, west end residents will continue to be underserved by public transit if the Transit Strategy recommendations are implemented without finding alternatives.

Ward 5 residents have reached out to me on facebook to voice their concerns about the loss of transit routes. This loss has real impacts on the people in Edmonton’s west end, and will influence where Edmontonians choose to live and raise their families. Jocelyn, a resident in Cameron Heights, told me that the reduced hours will impact her family in a variety of ways. She will no longer be able to work overtime at her downtown office job, her teenage daughter’s ability to participate in recreational activities after school and seek part-time employment will be curbed, and their family’s attendance at large sporting events and festivals will be affected. For regular transit users like this Ward 5 resident, accessible public transit means the freedom to live, work, and experience our city every day.  That said, ridership in some Ward 5 Edmonton Transit routes has been on the decline. Those routes are thus being subsidized by taxpayers all over the city.

I agree that as Edmonton grows, we must find more efficient and economical ways to move around. There has to be a better way to make sure everyone has access to good transit options. City Council’s job is to hold Administration accountable to bring forward innovative, well researched, and smart transit changes and make the best decision possible.

Rumours have been flying that the City may engage ride-sharing companies like Uber or Pogo to cover areas where public service will be affected. I have my reservations about this solution. Instead, I suggest that we replace large, standard buses with smaller community buses or operate a dial-a-ride service for off peak hours. Saving money and overcoming inefficiencies does not have to equal complete cuts to public service.

Every resident has an opportunity to voice their opinion in this discussion. Whether you were one of 20,000+ people who participated in the public engagement for the new Transit Strategy or this is the first time you have heard about it, you have an opportunity to share your thoughts. Make your opinion known as the proposal goes before Urban Planning Committee on July 5:

Whether it is the Transit Strategy or other major reports and plans that will be coming to City Council in the next four years, I want to make every resident of Ward 5 feel engaged and heard. I am committed to fostering open communication on all municipal issues that impact your daily lives through regular updates on my website, face-to-face conversations at community gatherings, and open town hall meetings across Ward 5. Stay connected and continue to share your perspectives and thoughts on the future of our city!

3 thoughts on “The Evolution of ETS

  1. I understand that public transit ridership in Ward 5 has declined on some routes to the point of requiring financial subsidization to maintain service and that such a funding model is difficult to maintain. However to my thinking, we are only shuffling money around by replacing subsidized ETS bus routes with a subsidized private ride share companies. I would agree that replacing large buses with smaller community buses or an ETS dial-a-ride service would be a more preferable option.

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