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Transit satisfaction still pretty good but declining among Edmonton riders

Transit satisfaction still quite strong but declining among Edmonton riders
WATCH ABOVE: Transit users in Edmonton say they're pretty happy with the services they're getting. Fletcher Kent has more on the results of the 2018 ETS customer satisfaction survey.

Edmonton Transit passengers have told the city in a recently posted customer satisfaction survey that they still find the service pretty good, despite what they see as a slight decline in a few specific areas.

The overall satisfaction rate for 2018 is the same as the year before at 78 per cent.

“2018 sees a softening in satisfaction for fare purchase options, duration of the trip, convenient bus stop locations and for safety while waiting at LRT stations [and at] at transit centres and while onboard LRTs (likely due to safety incidents/ issues regarding LRTs and buses, particularly in the fall season),” the report said.

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“At ETSAB, we are just now beginning a sub-committee to look into safety and security in transit,” said Charlie Kelly, the chair of the Edmonton Transit Service Advisory Board. He agreed with the report that perception is likely affected by more media attention to incidents in the past year.

There is safety in numbers, and that’s why Councillor Aaron Paquette said he hopes station improvements with the Edmonton Exhibition Lands, and also with a new station outside of Commonwealth Stadium being in the works, will improve ridership.

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Paquette said he’ll be pushing for more commerce and business in the immediate vicinity of LRT stops when Edmonton’s oldest stations are redesigned.

“I don’t know why, but we seem to be doing it backwards, where we’re putting residential around the train stations and the bus stations and then commercial outside of that.”

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Paquette said he wants to see it so passengers can grab a coffee easier on their way to work, or do some shopping on the trip home as they get on and off the train.

A report on his inquiry from last year on different levels of subsidies for transit fares will be back before city council this fall, where he hopes to get some answers on the best way to increase ridership.

Paquette said “it’s a head-scratcher” on why the administration has taken so long to increase the fleet, in part, he said, because building a garage to store vehicles has lagged behind.

Paquette said studies he’s seen show transit to be an economic driver worth one to two billion dollars a year.

“I think that we should be taking transit a lot more seriously and working on getting it right, rather than keep patching a system,” he said.

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City staff are working on a route redesign that will be finalized later this year and then rolled out in 2020, to help get rid of overcrowding and delays.

The new smart fare electronic payment system will be unveiled in 2020 to make it easier for passengers to pay with a tap-on, tap-off format. Data grabbed from the smart cards will allow planners to better map out routes. That information will be before city council in the late spring of 2020.

Smart cards will be a big improvement over the current system of telling customers how they should pay for their fares, Kelly said.

“It’s not very clear, I think it’s a PDF file and not really specific enough. We would like to see that as more of an interactive type of thing.”

ETS scored better in 2018 on ease of trip planning and on buses’ on-time reliability.