Big changes for Edmonton commuters as city launches transit redesign

On April 25, Edmonton will launch its first redesign to the city’s bus network in more than 20 years. The plan will remove lesser used bus routes, and focus on more frequent buses on busier routes. Some Edmontonians aren't happy with the changes.

With one month to go, bus riders look ahead to new routes

Edmonton's bus network is set for a redesign on April 25. (Cort Sloan/CBC)

A redesigned bus network will launch in Edmonton at the end of April, promising faster and more convenient transit.

But some Edmontonians are worried the network will have the opposite effect in their neighbourhoods.

On April 25, Edmonton will launch its first redesign to the city's bus network in more than 20 years. The plan will remove less-used bus routes, and offer more frequent buses on busier routes.

The benefits touted by the city include more direct routes, evening and weekend service in more neighbourhoods, and an overall simplified network. Jacqueline Honour lives along 137th Avenue in northeast Edmonton, and her bus arrives every 30 minutes. She said it's great to see the changes in store for her route.

"It's going to increase from every 30 minutes during peak period to every 15 minutes all day long, weekends included. It's really made it far more convenient," Honour said.

On-Demand service

Some Edmontonians aren't happy with the changes in their communities. In the Westridge neighbourhood, Naomi Tam is upset the new network will triple her commute time.

To get to work, Tam took a bus to the South Campus LRT station and caught a train downtown, which in total took around 30 minutes.

Under the new system, Westridge is one of the communities losing its neighbourhood bus route. That means Tam will instead have to take a bus going in the opposite direction to West Edmonton Mall, before transferring to another headed downtown.

"I think the next option will be driving, which is very contradicting to the bus network design objective," Tam said on CBC's Edmonton AM on Monday.

Commuters in 37 Edmonton communities, including Westridge, will have the option to take a new on-demand bus. It's part of a pilot project that also launches on April 25 and is scheduled to last two years.

Commuters can request a small shuttle bus to pick them up through the Edmonton On Demand Transit app. The bus takes them from their neighbourhood stop to a designated transit hub, and vice versa. The shuttle won't collect bus fare, instead commuters will pay when they transfer to or from regular transit service.

City spokesperson Tarra Kongsrude said a postcard will be sent in April to communities receiving On Demand bus service, highlighting pick-up and drop-off locations. She said commuters won't have to wait longer than 30 minutes in peak periods or 60 minutes in off-peak periods.

But Tam is worried about what her transit options for these communities will be when the two-year pilot ends.

Longer commutes

Another bus stop being removed is in Hermitage, a northeast neighbourhood.

Marcia Jacobson's two children use a stop two minutes from their home to get to junior high school, a commute that currently takes 30 minutes. Under the new network, they'll have to use one of two different stops, which are a 10 to 15 minute walk away.

"My concern is how far of a walk it is for the kids, just because you don't know exactly when your bus is going to show up. It could be early or it could come late. Now, we have to factor in these wait times," Jacobson said.

Jacobson said she's worried about her children not being able to get home as quickly if there's an emergency, what the walk will be like in winter. The added time to their commute has Jacobson considering whether to move her kids to a different school in September.

Changes to service at existing stops is also a problem for some Edmontonians.

In Fulton Place, residents can take Route 1 downtown in roughly 25 minutes from the stop at 103A Avenue and Fulton Road. The neighbourhood isn't losing its stop, but under the redesigned system that trip will now take more than twice as long, said resident Iris Ingram.

"We have gone from an excellent bus service here … all of that is gone," Ingram said.

Ingram said she raised the issue at several open houses the city hosted, but she said she's frustrated to still see this change to her neighbourhood.