Transit changes coming to Edmonton a year after bus network redesign

Changes are coming to Edmonton’s transit routes in a bid to improve service, one year after the city launched its bus network redesign, Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) managers said Wednesday.

Over the past year, ETS has gathered public feedback and re-evaluated the transit network, said branch manager Carrie Hotton-MacDonald.

The annual transit service plan, which was presented to city council, outlines plans to expand on-demand service in some neighbourhoods, launching the smart fare system for regional routes and increasing LRT frequency.

“We’re bringing some on-demand service to some of the northern neighborhoods in the northern part of the city, which we heard loud and clear, the need for some additional transit support,” Hotton-MacDonald said.

That’s good news to Coun. Karen Principe, from Ward tastawiyiniwak, where the city cut routes and didn’t offer on demand service until now.

“They came through for the north side here,” Principe told CBC News.

The new on-demand service is expected to run from north Chambery and north Elsinore to Eaux Claires Transit Centre; south Klarvatten to Eaux Claires; and Balwin to Coliseum and Belvedere transit centres.

The annual report outlines specific routes that could be enhanced starting in 2023, by extending weekend and evening hours.

Transit not clean, safe: councilors

Councilors flagged issues that continue to plague the transit system and deter people from riding the bus and LRT.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said safety has been a huge problem, with noticeable social disorder around transit and increasing cases of opioid use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That’s a major barrier and that is a very complex problem,” Sohi said. “It ties into our social issues which are beyond the capacity of ETS and even the capacity of the city.”

The city just started working on a new transit safety action plan approved by council in the last month. It includes patrols with peace officers and outreach teams, said city manager Andre Corbould.

count. Erin Rutherford said she’s been getting a lot of emails about cleanliness on transit.

“Do we really believe it’s efficient right now?” Rutherford asked. “Would we need a budget consideration for the next budget cycle if we do not?”

Crews have been cleaning more often and in more places during the pandemic, Hotton-MacDonald said. She said in some areas it has been hard to keep up, despite frequent monitoring.

“I’ll take that back and discuss with our facilities team to see if we can do something even more extensive,” she said.

ETS has been getting funding specifically for pandemic cleaning. Hotton-MacDonald plans to ask for more permanent long-term funding in the fall.

Changes coming

ETS has made 60 changes since launching the bus network redesign last April, Hotton-MacDonald noted.

Some changes this year include adding new service from The Hills at Charlesworth to Mill Woods Transit Centre, and connections for Henderson Estates and Falconer Heights to the Leger Transit Centre.

The transit service is going to consult communities on a number of changes, said Daniel Vriend, ETS director of planning and scheduling.

Vriend told council they’re reevaluating routes between Ellerslie, MacEwan, Blackfoot Creek and the Heritage Valley area.

“There’s a few complexities in the area,” he said. “Some areas reporting concerns of buses stopping in front of their house causing congestion.”

Other areas with lower ridership may switch to on demand service, he added.

Council agreed to reallocate money from the 510X express buses, that run from Mill Woods to downtown, to put more conventional routes throughout the city, as the Valley Line Southeast LRT is set to start this summer.

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