Edmonton's new transit boss out to overhaul bus system

There's a new person in charge of Edmonton's transit system, and he's planning to overhaul the whole thing.

Eddie Robar's review of Halifax's transit system will guide plan for city

Transit manager Eddie Robar arrived in Edmonton a few weeks ago, and is getting to know the system before organizing a major review of all the city's bus routes. (CBC)

Changes are coming, big changes.

There's a new person in charge of Edmonton's transit system, and he's planning to overhaul the whole thing.

Eddie Robar started his new job as manager of ETS a few weeks ago, and the biggest thing on his radar is the city's system-wide review of all bus routes.

"Part of what drove me to Edmonton was the transit strategy coming up," said Robar, who oversaw a similar overhaul in Halifax during his four years as transit manager there.

Robar calls his last transit review in Halifax, which was still pending council approval when he left, an "unprecedented overhaul."

He said the last review of Edmonton's system was more than 20 years ago. In the meantime, he said, transit philosophy has changed a great deal.

"Trying to take that holistic approach and get one philosophy, one transit system is something that's of the utmost importance," he said.

Maximizing transit system goal of review

He added the goal of the review is to maximize the use of the system.

Robar takes the LRT every day in Edmonton, and rides the 100 bus route to work a few days a week. He described the experience as "seamless," but said he still doesn't know the system very well.

"Getting out in the system helps, but it'll only give me a snapshot of what that looks like."

While he's still getting acquainted, he said the major issues that have come up so far are similar to those he dealt with in his last job. The lessons he learned on the East Coast will help direct the overhaul of Edmonton's system.

"I've done a couple of reviews in Halifax … our second review was much better than our first review," he said.

He said the most important thing he took away from his time in Halifax was the importance of public consultation. Edmontonians will have a chance to weigh in on the future of the transit system in the next few months, he said.

Feedback will make system better

"The more feedback we get the longer it'll take, but the better the system will be in the end."

The first draft of the review will likely go before council in a year or so, he said.

Robar will also be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the transit and LRT system. He said so far the issues that have come up are very similar to those he dealt with in Halifax.

"It's interesting to see how much of the issues or concerns are the same, but just on a larger scope," he said.

He pointed to park-and-ride capacity as one issue the two cities share.

Halifax also uses smart bus and smart fare technology, which is being implemented in Edmonton.

"That is really transposable to the Edmonton experience, obviously on a bit of a larger scale," he said.


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