Late bus service coming to Whyte Avenue
Transit hours extended for fall pilot project
Patrons of bars along Whyte Avenue will be offered late-night bus service on weekends when a pilot project is launched next month.
"I think it's essential. I think it's probably late in coming," said Shirley Lowe, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association, which represents establishments along the popular Edmonton retail and entertainment strip.
"When you have a lot of people in one place at one time, you need to be able to move them out."
Transit routes that run along the avenue currently end service by 1 a.m., leaving crowds of people competing for a limited number of taxis once the bars close at 3 a.m.
Under the pilot project, a bus will take Whyte Avenue passengers to the University of Alberta and Southgate Transit Centre every 12 minutes between 1:30 to 3:18 a.m. on Saturday and Sundays.
The project will run from Sept. 2 to Nov. 26. The city will evaluate the effectiveness of the program once it wraps up.
Passengers who travel as far as the Southgate Transit Centre are expected to catch taxis to get the rest of the way home. An influx of intoxicated Whyte Avenue revellers worries management at Southgate Centre, the shopping mall adjacent to the transit centre.
"Ultimately, I have to have to make adjustments to my security programs here at Southgate in order to compensate for this," said general manager Paul Fairbridge.
Lowe rejects those concerns. She believes most passengers will get off at the University of Alberta, leaving only a small number seeking taxis at Southgate Transit Centre.
Lowe has been calling on the city to have this type of bus service along Whyte Avenue for years. She says it's time for the transit system to catch up to the fact that economic activity takes place in Edmonton 24 hours a day.
"We are now a big city. We need to act like a big city," she said. "This is 2011, not 1952."