After years of increased ridership, fewer people taking public transit in Edmonton

Click to play video: 'Transit use down in Edmonton' Transit use down in Edmonton
WATCH ABOVE: Despite a push to get more people on board, transit use is down in Edmonton. Vinesh Pratap takes a look at the reason and hears from customers who offer solutions on what to do to turn things around. – Oct 5, 2016

Despite an ongoing push by the City of Edmonton to get more commuters using public transportation, the number of people taking the bus and LRT has dropped over the past couple of years.

Annual ridership on ETS buses and trains has declined each year for the last two years. The decrease comes after growing ridership each year from 2005 to 2014.

Annual ETS ridership dropped by 600,000 in 2015 and is on track to drop by a similar amount by the end of 2016. Because of the downward trend, the city is doubtful it will reach its target of 103 million rides by 2020.

Edmonton Transit cites the troubled economy for the decrease in ridership.

“Transit ridership is down in most cities across the country. This is not unusual with economic slowdown – Alberta has felt this especially so,” said a statement from Edmonton Transit.

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READ MORE: Low-income transit pass coming to Edmonton

According to Edmonton Transit, overall boardings dropped by 0.9 per cent in 2015.

“It’s not a big number but it is something that we are paying close attention to,” Andrew Gregory, senior transit planning engineer with the City Of Edmonton, said.

While bus boardings decreased by 4.2 per cent during the week and 12 per cent on the weekends in 2015, transit officials said LRT ridership increased by nearly 10 per cent during the week.

READ MORE: Edmonton Transit making major bus service changes

ETS said service adjustments are being made based on the ridership trends and transit officials are hopeful things will turn around. But what do commuters think can be done to get more people in the seats?

Sasha Semeniuk doesn’t have a car and believes transit is a great, affordable option to driving. But he admits the system could use some improvement.

“I think they need to increase service – more trains more often. Make it more accessible. Construction right now is pretty bad; just always have it open,” the loyal LRT rider said.

“Some days the Metro Line’s just down and you can’t take the train.”

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Semenuik said the speed of the trains has also hindered his daily journey.

“The Metro Line has just doubled my transit time basically, just waiting for the Clareview train to come because a NAIT train happened to show up at that time,” he said.

“Whenever I see it, it basically moves at walking speed. It’s very slow. I imagine it takes a very long time to get to school if you’re trying to get to NAIT or MacEwan.”

Brenna Bilassy is a second-year university student who takes the bus. She is a strong advocate of public transportation but also had some suggestions for ways the city could improve its system.

“Getting people to be able to park and ride, having more spots available for park and ride for people going downtown, especially students who want to take the train to school,” she said.

READ MORE: Big jump in paid park and ride stalls at Edmonton LRT stations starts Sept. 1

According to the 2016 municipal census, 78.6 per cent of people drive to work, while 13.7 per cent of people take transit. The census also showed 3.8 per cent of people walk, 2.7 per cent ride a motorcycle, scooter or roller blades and 1.1 per cent of people ride bikes.

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Construction on the first phase of the Valley LRT Line began in April. Phase 1 of the Valley Line will run from downtown to Mill Woods in the southeast, at an estimated cost of $1.8 billion. Phase 2, which is not yet funded, will run from downtown to Lewis Farms in the west end.

The construction comes as problems continue to plague the Metro Line, which opened in September 2015 and has never run at full speed for the entire length of the line.

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