Edmonton councillors ask staff for clear options to replace some bus routes

Edmonton city councillors want a clearer picture of how residents in some neighbourhoods will be able to access transit next year when the city’s revamped bus network comes online.

Solutions could include ride sharing, van-pools and on-demand bus service

City of Edmonton's revamped bus network is scheduled to start in July, 2020. (CBC)

Edmonton city councillors want a clearer picture of how residents in some neighbourhoods will be able to access transit next year when the city's revamped bus network comes online.

City council's urban planning committee passed a motion Tuesday asking staff to further analyze community transit service and come up with options to address what's called the first/last kilometre challenge.

Edmonton Transit Service is considering various solutions, such as ride sharing, van-pools and on-demand service for people who don't live near main bus routes.

Coun. Michael Walters said the options presented so far aren't clear.

"We have to give people some picture of an answer pretty soon," he said Tuesday. "I sense a growing frustration about 'what are you guys actually talking about when it comes to my neighbourhood transit needs?' "

Coun. Andrew Knack, left, and Michael Walters, right listen to options for alternative transit in neighbourhoods with low ridership. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

"Is it a community bus, and if not why not? Is it a publicly run, on-demand bus and what does that mean?"

The committee asked ETS to return in November with a more detailed description of the first/last kilometre plan.

Several community members showed up Tuesday to express concerns to the committee.

Sheila Hallett, executive director of the Edmonton seniors' co-ordinating council, supports an on-demand service.

"We have a winter city and sidewalks present a big concern for a lot of people with low mobility, so we need to be able to get buses as close as possible for them."

Others urged councillors to keep public buses running, even in areas where ridership is low.

Ryan McKay, who lives with his family in Westridge, appealed to city council's urban planning committee to retain some routes, especially an express bus he takes to the South Campus LRT.

He thinks the city should improve community service rather than cut it, and do more to promote the advantages.

"I can work on the bus, I can get stuff done before I get to work," he said. "And I don't have the stress of driving."

"We never see advertisements coming out going 'this could be you' on this bus, you could be passing this standing traffic instead of sitting there, in your car."

The city's branch manager of ETS, Eddie Robar, said they're looking into market-based solutions for neighbourhoods that will see traditional bus service cut. 

He said on-demand options such as ride-hailing are working as a supplemental service in other jurisdictions.

"Making sure we have the right service and propose the right solutions, I think is going to be an important part of what we come back with for each of those communities."

In the city's bus network redesign, based on annual counts of bus trips, ETS decided to remove routes where only two or three people on average were on board.

"That's not efficient service," Robar said. "Nor would it be as convenient as something that would be on demand."

The city's bus network redesign proposes slashing dozens of routes and adding more frequent buses to popular routes.

About the Author

Natasha Riebe


Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.


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