July 17, 2018 8:00 am

Edmonton’s neighbours ready to sign on to create regional transit commission

St. Albert flirts with the idea of a regional transit system with Edmonton.

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The number of communities that want to be part of a proposed regional transit commission for the Edmonton area is set to grow.

Local mayors have confirmed to Global News that what started as a partnership between Edmonton and St. Albert will soon also include Parkland County, the Town of Morinville, the City of Leduc and others.

On June 26, Parkland County councillors voted in favour of joining the commission, according to Mayor Rod Shaigec.

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“As part of the agreement with this MOU (memorandum of understanding), there’s going to be a transition committee that will be established,” he said on Monday. “There will be representatives from the respective parties that do become signatories.”

The county already has bilateral agreements with both the City of Spruce Grove and with the City of Edmonton, including service to the Acheson industrial park.

On Sept. 12, 2017, Edmonton and St. Albert announced they had signed on to establish a regional transit commission. The working group is now in the process of bringing together the systems. It will be worked on through next year, with 2019 being the target date for a merged service.

READ MORE: Edmonton and St. Albert agree to next steps in creating metro transit commission

Morinville Mayor Barry Turner said a shared service is the best way for his residents to get into a metro-wide system.

“It’s hopefully going to enable a more cost-effective entry into the full provision of transit services for us. A lot of the things that we do are more sustainable over the long term to do it regionally. We’re interested in having a look at this.”

Morinville is running a pilot project that sees its buses go into St. Albert this year.

“We haven’t delved into it to a substantive degree as of yet, mostly because up until this opportunity came up, our jump into full transit services was looking much further down the road,” Turner said.

Edmonton city council has set 2020 as its target date for the implementation of a smart-card fare system. Shaigec said the commission will now look at that system as a possible system-wide concept.

“That’s something that needs to be explored. That’s one of those elements that will provide that seamless service and better service to all the riders of transit.”

The City of Leduc’s participation is seen as part of the bigger Airport Accord involving the Edmonton International Airport (EIA’s), Leduc County and the City of Edmonton. They have put together a funding formula for the Route 747 bus, which will bring transit users to the airport from Edmonton’s Century Park LRT station as well as from the new mall by the EIA and from the EIA’s international terminal.

READ MORE: Edmonton airport bus route 747 to continue and expand service

Shaigec said the transit commission is part of a bigger picture of what the members of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board are agreeing on.

“We’re starting to see some significant movement in a number of areas and transit is certainly one of them.”

Eventually, a board will be put in place and staff will be hired for the transit commission. Voting involving the municipalities will be weighted, based on the monetary contributions of the members.

When the commission was first proposed, the goal was to eliminate the duplication of routes. At an announcement in September, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said the idea was to allow both Edmonton and St. Albert to spend more smartly on transit.

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