Edmonton city council drives regional transit forward with unanimous vote

The proposed network would link Edmonton buses and LRT with the transit services of 11 other municipalities including Leduc, Spruce Grove, Devon and Stony Plain.

Regional system could be operating by 2026

A regional transit system for Metro Edmonton has been in the works for about 10 years. (CBC)

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, Edmonton city councillors endorsed the creation of a Regional Transit Services Commission (RTSC).

The proposed network would link Edmonton buses and LRT with the transit services of 11 other municipalities including Leduc, Spruce Grove, Devon and Stony Plain.

Mayor Don Iveson said the collaboration will help strengthen the economies of participating municipalities. 

"I think council sent a strong signal today that we're still all in to regional collaboration," Iveson said after the vote. 

The regional plan has been in the works for about 10 years with municipalities like St. Albert, which voted to join the commission earlier this month.

Strathcona County backs out

Last week, however, Strathcona County councillors voted unanimously against joining a regional transit commission.

Coun. Scott McKeen suggested Strathcona County was acting in bad faith. 

"To see this sort of 'opt out' at the first opportunity — I find really frustrating," McKeen said during the meeting. "I routinely see huge Strathcona transit buses around downtown. There are impacts on our roads."

McKeen noted that while Strathcona County buses use city roads, Edmonton taxpayers are covering the costs of road maintenance and bus stops. He'll be asking administration about future cost-sharing options, he said. 

"Good neighbours look after each other," he said. "Membership has its privileges."

If all 13 municipalities had participated, Strathcona County would have contributed 26 per cent of the cost while Edmonton would have taken on 42 per cent. 

Those figures are included in the business case that the RTSC transition team released to potential partners earlier this year.

Without Strathcona County on board, the team will have to re-evaluate the numbers.

The business case estimated the proposed system would save $3.4 million a year once the network is operating by 2026.

Iveson noted the numbers in the business case work well with all 13 municipalities.

"Strathcona not coming in impairs our ability to get best return on investment for taxpayers across the region and loses the opportunity for seamless mobility," he said.

"But on the assumption that there's still net efficiencies, the overall cost of providing the same or better transit should be lower into the future."

The current commission doesn't preclude Strathcona County from joining at a later time. 

The remaining 10 municipalities will vote throughout February and March. 

Once all the votes have been held, participating municipalities are expected to prepare and submit an application to the province to create the commission.



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