City explains mass changes to Edmonton bus routes: ‘We can’t be everything to everyone’

Click to play video 'Public input wanted on Edmonton bus route changes' Public input wanted on Edmonton bus route changes
WATCH: Edmonton’s Transit System is getting an overhaul and the city wants your thoughts on the new plan that hopes to improve efficiency. Fletcher Kent reports – Mar 29, 2018

The city is preparing to overhaul Edmonton’s bus routes and transit staff want citizens to weigh in on the Bus Network Redesign.

Every Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) bus route will be impacted.

The proposed changes will mean fewer bus stops — and therefore, some longer walks to reach those bus stops — because the city is planning to cut the number of routes in half. There are currently about 200 ETS bus routes and the changes will bring that down to about 100.

“We’ve thinned them out,” said Sarah Feldman, director of planning and scheduling for Edmonton Transit. “We’ve reduced overlap. We’ve straightened some routes so they’re not winding through all the neighbourhood collector roads.”

“I think we’re taking a fresher look and a more consistent approach throughout the city,” she added. “One thing we heard is generally, people value frequency over walking distance.”

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READ MORE: Edmonton transit strategy outlines drastic shift in service, aligns supply with demand

The changes would also mean riders wouldn’t wait as long for a bus ride. However, they could increase walk times to bus stops from about five minutes to up to 10 minutes.

“The challenge for transit is we can’t provide service — we can’t be everything to everyone with a limited budget,” Feldman said.

“So there may be other solutions in areas where there are people who have mobility challenges, but the demand otherwise for transit is very low.

“We’ll absolutely monitor it,” she said. “We believe this will increase ridership. We’ve seen in other cities in North America that have recently done a comprehensive redesign of their network that their ridership is going up.”

The new bus network is the first major action from the transit strategy but has been criticized for the timeline and how long it will take to implement.

“We want to make sure we get it right,” Feldman said. “We want to hear from people in communities, which takes time.”

READ MORE: Stakeholders want Edmonton to move quicker with new bus network design 

There are five types of routes in the new network: bus rapid transit, frequent bus routes, rapid bus routes, crosstown routes and local routes.

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City of Edmonton bus routes. Courtesy: City of Edmonton

The city says bus rapid transit routes will provide frequent services at all times, which will integrate with LRT stations.

Frequent bus routes will run on major corridors in inner-city neighbourhoods.

Rapid bus routes will connect areas where there is no LRT to major destinations. The city says the routes will provide fast, non-stop or limited-stop service between neighbourhoods and major destinations, such as downtown and the University of Alberta.

Crosstown routes will connect major destinations in the outer areas of the city without going through downtown or travelling on neighbourhood roads.

Local routes will provide connections to LRT, frequent bus routes and local activity centres.

READ MORE: Edmonton Transit making major bus service changes

This isn’t the final bus route plan. The city wants riders to share their thoughts on the proposed routes.

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“It becomes a bigger conversation of: ‘Are we willing to go back and change the strategy and change those principles?’

“That’s a conversation we’ll need to have with city council to see how much are we going to flex those principles,” Feldman said. “But we’re open to all feedback.”

The new route maps were quietly posted online March 22, the same day as the provincial budget.

There will be 24 workshops held across Edmonton between April 12 and June 14 during which people can provide insight in person. Online feedback can also be given to help refine the draft bus route network.

“Public feedback will be used to ensure proposed new bus routes meet the needs of more Edmontonians,” the city said in a news release Thursday.

READ MORE: Combining 2 phases of south LRT extension could save Edmonton $50M

The city will refine the planned routes and the changes will be implemented in 2020.

“It’s clear that change is needed,” Councillor Jon Dziadyk said.

“It’s unacceptable that it takes over an hour, in some cases, to go from parts of my ward to downtown,” said Dziadyk, who represents Ward 3.

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He thinks some routes could be fine-tuned to limit the walk time to reach certain bus stops.

“In those instances where we see it doesn’t make sense, we’re going to have to change that. I’ll be fighting to change that. I don’t want anyone in Ward 3 walking 10 minutes to catch a bus.”

It’s an issue Dziadyk will be keeping a close eye on.

“I will definitely be considering cost recovery and cost implications for public transit.”

— With files from 630 CHED’s Scott Johnston and Global’s Slav Kornik