Edmonton and St. Albert are en route to consolidating some transit services.
After years of wrangling about co-operation between municipalities in the capital region, the two cities are poised to join their commuter bus services.
But the announcement on Thursday was only one step in a process that has already taken years, and will not see buses hit the road until at least 2019.
"It's a huge step forward for residents of St. Albert and Edmonton who have buses running next to each other today that — if we could find a way to weave those services together — for the same dollars, we could get better service," said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson.
"By aligning our bus assets and service hours, [it] could mean more rapid trips for residents in both communities and more cost-effective and efficient operations overall."
Next week, the St. Albert and Edmonton city councils will each consider a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to create the Joint City Managers' Regional Commuter Service Task Force, an entity that would eventually become a new transit commission.
That commission would oversee the operation of commuter buses that run at peak times in areas such as the far north and northwestern parts of Edmonton, and St. Albert.
Other regions invited aboard
But there is a lot more that has to happen before the new system can start.
If the city councils agree to the MOU, the next step will be to ask the province for almost $4 million in startup funding over two years. The money would be used to develop more detailed route plans and for the development of the new transit commission.
In the meantime, both Edmonton and St. Albert are keen to see other regions, such as Strathcona County, consider joining the partnership.
"We've worked over the last two years on this particular model, but over the last decade on regional public transit service delivery," said Coun. Wes Brodhead of St. Albert.
"The rest of the region is interested but it took a coalition of the willing to get it going. And now that we've come this far, I think people are starting to say this is an actual possibility that may occur."
The announcement comes as news that the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority will no longer contribute $500,000 per year toward the No. 747 bus a route that runs between Century Park and the Edmonton International Airport.
Iveson said the route, which serves the people, communities and businesses of Leduc County, Leduc, and Edmonton is a perfect example of the need for sustained co-operation between different regional players.
If approved, the new transit commission would run under a "double-majority voting system," which considers factors such as a municipality's financial contributions and its ridership to weigh its vote.
Both Iveson and Brodhead said such a system encourages co-operation and protects the interests of all players.
Edmonton city council will consider the memorandum of understanding at its next meeting set for Tuesday.