Edmonton Transit takes a new direction in major route overhaul

The city is looking at a major overhaul of Edmonton Transit for the first time in 20 years.

'I hope our system looks like most of the other big city systems that I’ve ridden as a tourist in'

Edmonton Transit bus in this file photo. (CBC)

The city is looking at a major overhaul of Edmonton Transit for the first time in 20 years.

The overhaul will divide the city into two rings, an inner ring closer to the downtown core and an outer ring in the suburbs, said Eddie Robar, manager of Edmonton Transit.

The inner ring would have more frequent bus service for people who are taking transit for a variety of reasons, like shopping or going to an appointment.

"When we talk about the inner ring, we're talking about ... people that are looking at that lifestyle choice," he said.
Transit manager Eddie Robar is leading a major overhaul of the city's bus routes. (Nola Keeler/CBC)

"You know, I might choose to have one car instead of two. I use my service to go to work, I use it to shop, I use it to drop my kids off at school. You're looking at frequency, you're looking at connectivity."

The outer ring would be mostly for commuter trips and would focus on minimizing travel time with faster buses in express corridors.

"When you move yourself outside of that inner ring road, you have a lot of urban commuter service which is people going to and from work, point to point, direct services, 'How do I get from point A to point B?'," Robar said.

Mayor Don Iveson said the changes will bring Edmonton into line with transit systems in other major cities.

"I hope our system looks like most of the other big-city systems that I've ridden as a tourist in other cities, which is that you have main-line-dedicated faster service that you don't need an app to judge whether it's going to be this half hour or that half hour," Iveson said.

20,000 people consulted

Administrators told the city's urban planning committee the ideas in the strategy came after extensive public consultation.

More than 20,000 Edmontonians shared their ideas of what they thought were the most important things about taking public transportation.

Still, some members of the public weren't happy with the way consultation unfolded.

Glen Miller criticized the way input from seniors was handled.

Kristine Kowalchuk wanted to see more consideration of BRT — bus rapid transit — in the new strategy.

Iveson wasn't surprised by the strong opinions about major changes to the transit system.

"There is a diversity of perspective on this and that is why this will have to fall on politicians, civic leaders, to have to make some decisions based on all that evidence, based on best practice from other communities, and that's the level of decision and leadership that's frankly been put off for years on building a better transit system."

Edmonton Transit will now identify the more frequent bus routes and the express corridors, and to map out an example of what local service could look like.