The Edmonton Transit Service will unveil its new service plan Thursday in a report heading to city council later this month.
It has promised to include more frequent service, longer distances to walk to bus stops and provision of a secondary service to provide “First-KM, Last-KM” access.
Suggestions are during peak hours you will see five-minute frequency on routes that are in demand, with 15-minute service in off-peak hours.
The old maximum distance to walk to a bus stop will increase from 400 metres to as many as 600 metres or in some rare cases 800 metres.
Councillor Andrew Knack told Global News these changes will be made without an increase in the $360-million ETS budget.
“We’re not going to add new dollars unless you are at least taking away as much from a different area,” he said in an interview. “There’s no way to do both, to add new spending.”
Four years of “tough budgeting” from the province is not expected to alter the city’s plans for Edmonton Transit, Knack confirmed.
“Specifically, what it changes is going to be the conversation around that community service, ‘First-kilometre, Last-kilometre,’ he said. “I don’t think it changes the redesign because the system hasn’t been good enough.
“The ridership is not good enough for the amount of dollars we put in. We are not getting good value out of that.
“What we often hear from people is those who are using transit are using it because it might be too costly to buy a car,” Knack said, pointing to Edmonton’s rate of only 13 per cent ridership.
“Before we start increasing fares, we need to prove to people the service is worth it.”
Councillor Mike Nickel agreed that the business model needs to be fixed to attract more riders.
“Increasing fares right now is a bit of a stretch,” he said. “If we increase bus fares right now, it’s hurting the people who need it the most.
“I have no idea how this is going to affect seniors, for example, in the winter time,” he said while talking about the proposed longer walking distances. “I just don’t see it working.”
Knack blames an out-of-date plan that has been around long before the Anthony Henday ring road.
He said he’s got one segment of his ward that lost service because of poor ridership that now desperately needs service in the northwest part of the city, serving the Hawks Ridge, Trumpeter and Starling neighbourhoods in the Big Lake Community League.
“The community has since grown and now we have high school students who have no way to access any type of bus service,” Knack said. “Their nearest bus stop I believe, if I’m calculating correctly, is seven kilometres away. Their nearest hub is about 14 kilometres away.”