Edmonton city council orders transit review

A suggestion to reduce transit service to the suburbs and industrial areas as a cost-cutting measure met with some opposition at a special Edmonton city council meeting on Wednesday.

Councillors told to change transit model or face rising costs

Coun. Amarjeet Sohi is opposed to reducing bus service in the suburbs. (CBC)

A suggestion to reduce transit service to the suburbs and industrial areas as a cost-cutting measure was opposed by some councillors at a special meeting Wednesday.

Councillors are looking at the long-term sustainability of the system, which has seen no increase in funding despite years of inflation and population growth.

According to a consultant, Edmonton's bus service is too broad and too costly.

The report prepared by Stantec and Jarrett Walker and Associates says cutting service to areas with lower transit use and increasing frequency to others could improve the system but some councillors disagree.

“What is being proposed here is a drastic reduction to services in suburban areas and industrial areas, which will increase walking distance for people who use the system,” said Coun. Amarjeet Sohi, a former bus driver.

He worried that the changes could hurt seniors or mothers with small children.

“This whole idea that some Edmontonians deserve better service than other Edmontonians is very problematic.”

Mayor Don Iveson said councillors who oppose service reductions are oversimplifying  the issue. He believes incorporating some of the consultant’s suggestions will not lead to a two-tiered system.

“Right now we’re trying to please everybody and we end up not pleasing that many people,” Iveson said.

He wants to hear from the public before making a final decision on ideas such as eliminating bus service to industrial areas. But he believes something needs to change.

“My concern is that if we try to continue to try to deliver transit the same way as the city grows, with hundreds of thousands more people in the coming decades, that it will become financially unsustainable for us to do it.”

Council asked administration to come up with several options for a long-term transit plan with a final version completed within a year.