It appears patience has saved the patient.
“A year and a half ago this thing was on life-support,” Mayor Don Iveson said about the 747 bus that makes its way from Century Park LRT station to the International Airport.
“Now we’ve doubled its use and gotten regional partners behind it which is great, so hopefully it’ll grow further.”
The City of Edmonton, the City of Leduc, Leduc County and reps from the Edmonton International Airport — all partners in the Airport Accord — brainstormed and came up with three ways to make the fledgling bus route pick up business.
WATCH: Route 747 has not only been saved – it will expand. As Fletcher Kent explains, the city found regional partners for the popular, but unprofitable route. (Feb. 27, 2018)
They added a new stop at the Premium Outlet Collection mall where the Leduc Transit Number 10 bus links up with the ETS 747, dropped the 747 fare to Century Park from $10 to $5, and added free shuttles between the EIA main terminal, the outlet mall, the STARS air ambulance hangar, and some nearby warehouses.
Ridership grew from 12,000 to more than 24,000 a month.
“A lot of people going to jobs at the airport,” Iveson said. “This is good for the residents of Edmonton who are able to access employment.”
“I like it 100 per cent,” Keith Cooper said just as he was boarding the bus. He uses 747 to get to the airport, where he’s a kitchen supervisor for four restaurants.
“It’s just a matter of the number of times it runs, on the hour instead of the half hour.”
Cooper has cut it close once or twice and missed his bus at the Century Park transit centre by three minutes, meaning he has to wait for the better part of an hour for the next ride.
“Even if they raised the rates like $10 a month, I’d be more than happy to pay that just to have it run more often.”
Mayor Don Iveson said that’s in the works. “We have an arrangement in place with our neighbours where they will help pay for additional buses as demand warrants,” Iveson said.
“So we’ll continue to monitor demand and cost-sharing will kick in if we need to add more buses, which would be a good problem for all of us to have.”
Seventy per cent of the riders come from Edmonton, with 5 per cent from Leduc and Leduc County, and the other 25 percent from outside metro Edmonton. Just over half —54 per cent — take the trip to catch a flight, while 28 per cent commute to work.
“We’re continuing to work with our airport partners at what’s going to have to scale up with transit service to the south, as well as lots of other economic development enablers for turning the airport into an even bigger economic driver for the region,” Iveson said.
“Specific to transit, some of what we’ve learned on the 747 project I think will apply to the broader regionalization and the regional transit conversations that are happening with all of our neighbours.”
One day — many, many years from now — LRT will service the airport, Iveson said — but for now, “the bus is going to be the primary mode for the foreseeable future.”
A new report released Thursday details steps on the creation of a regional transit commission. Edmonton city council will debate the report on Tuesday, June 18.