November 2, 2017 6:26 pm

Uber assisting new transit system, new playground zones brought up at Edmonton city council

City Hall in downtown Edmonton, Alberta. April 16, 2015.

Vinesh Pratap, Global News

A new city council means a new opportunity to ask about old issues. A number of them came up during Thursday’s city council meeting.

Councillor Andrew Knack asked to have city council look, once again, at using Uber or other ride-sharing operations as part of the new transit strategy that the Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) is going to have hit the streets in 2020.

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In July, a vote that lost on a 5-5 tie dropped the idea of exploring ways to have residents get from where the bus or LRT trip begins, to a main transit centre. It’s called “first-mile, last-mile.”

During Thursday’s meeting, Knack asked about looking at ride-share options from the private sector, as well as public service alternatives like dial-a-bus, a service that currently operates in St. Albert and Strathcona County that provides riders with “as needed” transit services.

READ MORE: Transit union fighting the ‘Uberization’ of Edmonton transit

“If we don’t compare all of the options it’s hard for us to say we’re going to get the best value for the hundreds of millions of dollars we spend on transit every year,” Knack told reporters after the meeting.

The union didn’t like Knack’s plan in the summer. It still doesn’t.

“This is kind of a shock. It’s kind of a blindside,” Mark Tetterington of the Amalgamated Transit Union. “We thought we had a motion on the table in July where they were going to introduce dial-a-bus, which is very efficient, or else community service buses to make up for those lower ridership areas in the outskirts of Edmonton.”

“There’s no job loss that would be combined with this,” Knack said. “You would take your drivers and move them on to high performing routes, get better value and get higher ridership.”

READ MORE: Edmonton considers changing rules for Uber and other ride-sharing companies

Knack said the high volume routes are needed to increase ridership, which he said are at 13 per cent capacity.

It was one of four notices of motion introduced at Thursday’s council meeting, a signal from individual members that they intend to raise an issue at a future meeting.

Meanwhile, Councillor Bev Esslinger wants to give seniors a break on transit. She said she heard plenty over the election campaign about increased costs.

“We don’t have any discount on tickets or cash fares for seniors so I just asked for options to explore what that could be,” she said. “What if you could in off-peak hours go and return on one ticket, so they could go to their medical appointments and come back?”

She’s also asking about a price freeze over a three-year-period to help those on fixed incomes.

Playground zones

Councillor Michael Walters is concerned about the new playground speed limits, because he’s fielded a lot of calls about how the new program that was voted on in the summer isn’t being brought in correctly. The new zones were to be added to school zones which have 30 km/h speed limits.

READ MORE: 30 km/h speed limit signs starting to go up around Edmonton playgrounds

“We have 30 km/hr stretches on collector roads currently where there are no playground structures and programmed children’s activity because I believe we’ve defined it too broadly,” Walters said.

“In some cases we’ve put 30 km/hr on everything but where the playground structure is.

“There’s a definition problem, and an implementation problem and I think we need to more narrowly define it and implement it on collector roads, particularly, more strategically.”

He cited 19 Avenue between 109 and 111 Streets in Kaskatayo as an example of the playground zones not matching where the playgrounds are.


Also during Thursday’s council meeting, Mayor Don Iveson made good on his campaign pledge to launch an Office of the Integrity Commissioner who’d assist councillors who might find themselves in a conflict of interest. Iveson said it’s needed because a new code of conduct is being introduced through the province’s updated Municipal Government Act.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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