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Commission aims to start regional transit in greater Edmonton area in 2022

Click to play video: 'Regional transit in greater Edmonton area could arrive in 2022' Regional transit in greater Edmonton area could arrive in 2022
Edmonton, Beaumont, Devon, Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc, St. Albert, Spruce Grove and Stony Plain have joined forces to provide better public transit options for the region, and on Thursday the Alberta government formally approved the formation of the Regional Transit Services Commission. Sarah Ryan explains how it would operate – Jan 28, 2021

A newly approved commission of eight Edmonton-area municipalities is now looking for a CEO to oversee a transition to regional transit services.

Edmonton, Beaumont, Devon, Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc, St. Albert, Spruce Grove and Stony Plain have all joined forces to provide better public transit options for residents across municipal borders.

Read more: Regional transit for Edmonton and nearby communities one step closer to reality

“The intention is for someone who lives in Fort Saskatchewan to get on a bus there and be able to seamlessly travel to Leduc, for example, or to the airport,” explained the commission’s interim chair, St. Albert Councillor Wes Brodhead.

“And all without having to worry about different bus passes, different fares, or even getting on a different bus.”

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A business analysis found about $3.4 million could be saved annually when the program is fully up and running, just by removing duplicate routes.

“There are many instances today where you will have an Edmonton Transit bus, a St. Albert bus and a Spruce Grove bus all driving down the same roads, at the same time, going to the same destination.”

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

Regional transit is a huge opportunity for the Town of Devon, Mayor Ray Ralph said. Currently, public transit doesn’t exist there.

“Unfortunately, as an individual or one local municipality, we could not feasibly or financially afford to do so,” Ralph said.

He thinks having bus services could entice young adults to continue living in Devon after they graduate high school.

“Because the first thing they do if they don’t have a car is move away,” Ralph explained.

Click to play video: 'City council pushes for regional transit system for greater Edmonton area' City council pushes for regional transit system for greater Edmonton area
City council pushes for regional transit system for greater Edmonton area – Jan 22, 2020

Stony Plain intends to launch its own local transit system this spring, but councillor Justin Laurie said the town still recognizes the benefits of working with neighbouring communities.

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“We’re looking forward to the commission actually allowing us to actually accelerate and enhance the service to our community much quicker and much better than we would be able to do on our own,” he said.

Edmonton’s representative on the commission, Ward 10 councillor Michael Walters, said there’s common-sense benefits for ETS riders too.

“Edmontonians also like to travel to other municipalities in the region. It’s not just about people who come into Edmonton,” he said.

But the proposal is not without concerns.

Thirteen municipalities started out on the commission and now only eight remain. Most notably missing is Strathcona County, whose buses are a regular fixture in Edmonton.

Read more: Strathcona County rejects invite to join regional transit plan that would cover greater Edmonton area

The transit union is also worried.

ATU Local 569 represents 2,600 employees. Its president, Steve Bradshaw, said employees want to be part of the program, but so far, have been ignored.

“If they’re not talking to us, it’s because they don’t have anything good to say to us.”

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The plan is to start the regional service in the fall of 2022.

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