Walk­ing com­plaints re­sult in changes to bus routes

New ver­sion of fi­nal pro­posal re­stores ‘se­niors routes’; in­crease in fares likely

Edmonton Journal - - CITY+REGION - ELISE STOLTE es­tolte@post­media.com

Out­cry against in­creased walk­ing times in Ed­mon­ton’s bus route over­haul has Ed­mon­ton Tran­sit pitch­ing sub­stan­tial changes to the fi­nal pro­posal.

The ma­jor re­design of bus routes through­out the city is still sched­uled to roll out in mid 2020. But the change in walk­ing dis­tance will be much less dra­matic for the ma­jor­ity of rid­ers.

The prin­ci­ple is the same — tran­sit rid­ers will see in­creased fre­quency and bet­ter ser­vice on evenings and week­ends if they agree to walk far­ther to a bus stop. But in the new plans, 83 per cent of rid­ers are only be­ing asked to walk 200 me­tres at most.

“The routes are (still) more di­rect, with less over­lap and more fre­quency,” tran­sit head Ed­die Ro­bar said at a Fri­day news con­fer­ence to an­nounce the changes.

But where rid­ers iden­ti­fied big gaps in ser­vice through pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions, tran­sit plan­ners made changes, adding more loops and ex­tend­ing the dis­tance buses run.

“We’ve made a lot of ad­just­ments based on what we heard,” Ro­bar said. “We knew we would not get this right the first time.”

Tran­sit of­fi­cials are hold­ing work­shops to share the new route map with the pub­lic from Oct. 25 through Dec. 9. Lo­ca­tions and hours for each work­shop in dif­fer­ent quad­rants of the city are posted on­line at ed­mon­ton.ca/ new­bus­routes.

The plan and pub­lic feed­back will come to coun­cil for ap­proval next April. Of­fi­cials are also start­ing work to de­velop the sched­ules, and plan a mas­sive ed­u­ca­tion cam­paign to run be­fore the new de­sign hits the streets in 2020.

The over­haul will be the big­gest change Ed­mon­ton’s bus net­work has seen in decades.

“We white-boarded the en­tire net­work and re­designed from scratch,” said Ro­bar.

The idea is to use the same $340-mil­lion tran­sit bud­get but shift re­sources to more pop­u­lar, di­rect routes to in­crease rid­er­ship. Ro­bar said they ’re still work­ing on tar­gets and pro­jec­tions, but he be­lieves in­creased rid­er­ship means in­creased fare rev­enue, which will in turn cre­ate more re­sources to of­fer even greater fre­quency.

This new ver­sion of the bus route re­design also re­stores “se­niors routes,” which are off-peak routes con­nect­ing se­niors cen­tres, ma­jor se­niors res­i­dences and shop­ping malls.

But it does mean much more walk­ing for some ar­eas. Two per cent of Ed­mon­ton res­i­dents will find them­selves an ad­di­tional 600 me­tres from their clos­est bus stop com­pared to to­day.

A few ar­eas, like Cameron Heights, which is cut off from the rest of the city by the river, a ravine and An­thony Hen­day Drive, will have no ser­vice at all. For those low-rid­er­ship, dis­con­nected ar­eas, tran­sit of­fi­cials are ex­plor­ing on­de­mand sys­tems. A re­port on those kind of first-mile/last-mile so­lu­tions is go­ing to coun­cil’s ur­ban plan­ning com­mit­tee Nov. 13.

Ed­mon­ton Tran­sit is also plan­ning to roll out a new sys­tem of pay­ment in 2020 that uses elec­tronic cards to track fares.

We’ve made a lot of ad­just­ments based on what we heard. We knew we would not get this right the first time.

ELISE STOLTE

“The routes are (still) more di­rect, with less over­lap and more fre­quency,” tran­sit head Ed­die Ro­bar said at a Fri­day news con­fer­ence to an­nounce ad­di­tional changes to the city’s bus route over­haul.

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