City councillors are calling for improvements to the city's "terrible" transit app to help riders catch buses that don't arrive on time, while the city overhauls the transit system.

On Friday, the city auditor told councillors that buses only arrive on time 58 per cent of the time.

While ETS is undergoing a massive strategic review to address problems with unreliable buses, it's not set to finish until 2017. Councillors say that's too long to wait for improvements.

"There needs to be some work to bring that number up," Coun. Andrew Knack said.

He suggested improving the city's transit app, so that if a bus isn't on time, at least riders will know when to expect it.

The city launched its ETS Live to Go app in December 2014, and it was immediately panned by online reviews. No major updates have been made since then.

Knack said the app cost $25,000 to develop, which he calls a waste of money. He said he doesn't use the app "because it's unfortunately still terrible."

Neither does the mayor or the city's new transit manager, Eddie Robar.

Robar, who is new to Edmonton, said he found a third-party app much easier to use. He said the city's app is not intuitive, especially for people who don't know the city well.

"It has issues," he said.

Robar said there are no immediate plans to improve the app, but it is on his radar. He said the city may decide to scrap the app and partner with a third party such as Transit App.

What's considered 'on-time'?

He said the transit department won't wait until 2017 to start making changes to improve service. In March, he will present a plan to council to reallocate buses on underused routes to higher traffic areas.

Councillors also called for Robar and his team to review what the transit department considers to be "on time."

The current policy states that buses are supposed to arrive between five minutes early and one minute late, 90 per cent of the time.

The industry standard is between three minutes early and three minutes late.

Knack said he wants to see Edmonton's policy brought in line.

"I know too many people, including myself, who walk up to a bus stop and … see it pass by as you're trying to run up," he said.

While he acknowledged changing the policy won't make the buses run on time, it would give the city something to strive for.

"There's nothing wrong with setting higher standards," Knack said. "Obviously we have a lot of work to do to make sure we hit those high standards."

​The long-term plan to address service issues on the transit system lies in the city's strategic review of the entire entire system.

Mayor Don Iveson said he hopes by the end of that review, Edmonton has a system where buses run so frequently on major routes it won't matter if people miss one.

"You don't have to look at your watch or app, you just walk out and know you'll have great service," Iveson said of his vision for transit. "That's what I experience in other cities."