City vows to review practices after long bus lines at Edmonton Heritage Festival
The City of Edmonton is promising to review Heritage Festival transit after long waits on buses were reported Sunday, but says it was a record day for attendance.
“We’ve had 42 years of this festival and have never seen those numbers,” Nicole Poirier, with the city’s civic events, said Monday.
“Even in our wildest estimates, we never would have thought we’d do the numbers we did yesterday.”
“It was a record day from all sides — traffic, transit, pedestrian, cyclist — it was record,” she said. “So, to have those kinds of numbers and to do what we needed to do, we felt that it went very well.”
Poirier said the city starts planning transit with the festival months before the event.
“Our forecast are normally that there’s a little bit of growth every year, but this was an unusual year for growth in one day.”
On Sunday, the Servus Heritage Festival smashed its one-day attendance record by welcoming an estimated 370,000. That’s more people than last year’s event saw over the course of all three days.
Given the huge numbers Edmonton Transit had to accommodate, Poirier said things went well overall.
“Everybody got to the park safely, everybody got home safely… Will we continue to look at how to do this better in the future? Absolutely. There’s always ways we can improve.
“But those numbers? Let’s be fair. They were huge, they were fabulous. Do we need to plan for those kinds of numbers in the future? Yes. Will our traffic plans change? Will our transit plans change? Absolutely.”
The record-breaking attendance meant ETS had to modify its resources on the go. It had 160 buses scheduled to be on the road, but added more to meet the demand.
“During the peak times between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., we brought in the buses that were supposed to be here for takeaway early and we kept those buses that were supposed to be leaving a bit longer in order to manage those crowds and get people in and out as quickly as possible,” Poirier said.
Watch below: Big crowds at Heritage Festival on Sunday meant huge lines for busses picking up and dropping off visitors.
She said the biggest cause of the traffic delays were drivers on Groat Road who tried to get as close as possible to Hawrelak Park to drop people off.
“We need people to take ETS. This drop off or try-to-drop-off is just slowing down the buses getting in, it’s slowing down the taxis getting in and it’s slowing down the festival workers.”
Safety was the top priority, Poirier stressed.
“When you’ve got vehicles and buses, and you’ve got lots of walkers and cyclists, that’s the most important thing for us. So if we need to slow down traffic and make sure those pedestrians are safe, that’s what we’re going to do.”
And that is why, despite requests, bus drivers can’t simply let a passenger off the bus during the ride.
“If we just let a passenger off in the middle of Groat Road, where are they going to go? We have to be very, very careful.”
However, she said on a few occasions, bus drivers made the decision to let a few passengers off. She apologized if anyone was upset or made ill by the long, hot wait.
“It’s unfortunate. I apologize if they were uncomfortable… I can make the commitment that we will review all our practices for next year.”
She said there were EMS personnel onsite and all medical incidents were responded to. She added there were not any more medical events than typically occur during Heritage Festival.
“We’re tracking, through our command system, every incident that happens and then we’ll look at all those in a big picture with the festival and make arrangements and modifications for next year.
“I think most people who have been to the festival in the past recognize that it does take a while to get onto the bus — lots of strollers, lots of families — and patience is one of those things. This is a very, very popular festival.”
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