Edmonton

Edmonton looking to improve transit for city visitors

Edmonton is trying to make city transit more user-friendly for tourists. Recommendations include a transit hub to connect the local bus and LRT network with regional transportation services, offering fare options specifically for tourists and using meaningful names, labels and symbols that are easily identifiable to visitors.

City council considers developing a transit hub, offering fare options designed for tourists

The city of Edmonton is discussing seven recommendations on how it could improve transit services for tourists. (CBC)

The city of Edmonton is trying to make transit more user-friendly for tourists.

Edmonton city council's urban planning committee met on Wednesday to discuss seven recommendations put forward by the Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board.

The recommendations include identifying a transit hub to connect the local bus and LRT network with regional transportation services; offering fare options specifically for tourists; and using meaningful names, labels and symbols that are easily identifiable to visitors.

A review of service to key tourist destinations and a possible partnership between the Edmonton Transit Service and the hospitality industry are also on the list of ideas.

Izak Roux is a member of the advisory board. 

Roux said making improvements to the 747 airport bus route should be a priority as it is the easiest recommendation to implement.

"First of all, to get on a 747 bus you need cash. How many tourists, especially from out of country, arrive and have cash available," Roux said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Sept. 1.

Roux also identified signage as an issue. One particular difficulty for tourists is identifying how to get between LRT stations and buses.

At the committee meeting on Wednesday, Roux said there needs to be ongoing conversations about identifying a transit hub.

"I think it's something we should address to interface with those regional services. Especially since some of them were moved out of the downtown area it's now a major issue for tourists coming in or going out of the city," he said.

Frequent bus service more costly

Approximately 172,000 people take the 747 airport bus annually, said Eddie Robar, a branch manager with the Edmonton Transit Service.

The bus route is outside the ETS's municipal boundaries and is partially subsidized by the Edmonton International Airport and the city.

The contract for the bus ended in April.

"Now it's about the [plan] of how we're going to approach the service going forward," said Robar.

An announcement will be made on Thursday about the future of the airport bus route, he added.

Committee members identified cost as a potential barrier to implementing some of the recommendations, such as increasing the frequency of the 747 bus route.

The hesitation comes after the ETS cut a number of residential routes earlier this year.

Cindy Barclay, the marketing manager for the Edmonton International Airport, said the airport is willing to discuss how to fund a more frequent service for the 747 route with the city and key partners, such as Tourism Edmonton and the ETS.

Barclay also spoke in favour of the other recommendations at the committee meeting.

"Improved transportation services are a key component of attracting more tourism and improving the overall experience of our travellers and employees," said Barclay.

Airport transit hub

At the meeting, Barclay said Edmonton International Airport should be considered for a transportation hub.

"We believe that Edmonton International Airport should be considered [for a hub] based on its strong current service offerings in terms of the real estate services available to develop a hub as well as the existing 747 route," said Barclay.

She added that taxi and limo services, hotel shuttles and tour operators heading daily to Jasper are current transit options from the airport.

The urban planning committee is scheduled to revisit the issue of improving the transit system for tourists next January.

emily.rendell-watson@cbc.ca

@erendellwatson

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