New routes shaking the core
Proponents say revised bus network
is what a growing city needs
By Brendan Collinge
EDMONTON TRANSIT’S redesigned bus network comes into effect April 25, drastically changing the routes available for transit riders, as well as the number of stops throughout the city.
The new network includes several frequent bus routes that run all day, including routes 1A and 1B to 9. Edmonton’s largest post-secondary schools are also being connected through a new route – route 8 that links the University of Alberta with MacEwan University and NAIT, before heading east to Abbotsfield.
In addition, crosstown routes are also being added to connect suburban areas. This includes routes 51 to 56, as well as express routes linking suburban areas to downtown, traffic routes, routes for seniors, and school specials.
The standard walking distance to a stop is being raised from 400 metres to 600 metres with about 1,000 bus stops being removed or relocated.
Also, a new on-demand service is also being piloted for the next two years for low-demand transit areas. The service will allow residents to call for a small vehicle similar to a DATS van to pick them up from a designated stop.
The network redesign is meant to find a balance between service and ridership, says ETS planning and scheduling manager Andrew Gregory. He says the decline in ridership has prompted a new look at the bus network to balance the city’s demands with service costs.
“With our current network that we’re using, it’s more suitable for smaller to medium-sized cities, say St. Albert, Kelowna, or Saskatoon, well below half a million in population with a hub and spoke design.
“As cities get bigger and expand, there’s more of an emphasis on frequent service, more direct and faster routes across the city.”
While many routes directly connect areas to downtown, many commutes that pass-through downtown are also being affected.
Stephanie Gower lives in Forest Heights with her family, and her teenage son takes a 50-minute commute through downtown to reach his South Side high school. He now has three buses he can take to reach downtown, and the closest stop is half a block away.
After the network redesign, his closest bus will be Strathcona County’s 411 route from Sherwood Park. His only other options involve a half-hour walk to a bus stop, or an hour-and-15-minute trip via Millgate with two bus transfers.
“The more buses you have to take, the higher the chances of something going wrong.”
Gower adds that she’s worried that the new network is too focused on major transit routes, to the detriment of people’s real needs.
“Maybe we’re just unlucky. I bike to work, so it’s not an issue for me to bike downtown. But for my kids, it pushes them to want to drive, which I think is the opposite of what we should be promoting.”
Gower says the on-demand service isn’t exactly appealing either, because the service will have to be called each day it’s needed, and only waits for a minute or so for you to catch it. She says she wishes there were more clarity about the service. For example, she adds, she hasn’t yet found an on-demand stop in her neighbourhood.
“I was struggling to find out where or not it would actually apply to us, whether it would actually be an option.”
Gower says she’s concerned for people who don’t have the option of driving, or can’t take a different transit service.
Funmi Omotade-Tan says her commute is going to get longer. She travels from Grovenor to Southgate in a one to two-hour-long commute five days a week, taking one bus and the LRT.
After April 25, she will have to take two buses to reach downtown. She says she’s concerned about having no way to know if connecting buses have arrived or left – and holds out hope for the West Valley LRT line to be completed and better connect her to downtown.
“If that happens, then that will be several blocks from me. If all I had to get was one LRT and a walk home, that’s still better than waiting for buses that may not turn up.”
She adds that she hasn’t yet looked into on-demand transit but will consider it.
Anyone concerned about how their commute will be affected is encouraged to visit the city’s website or use the ETS app to check their routes and do advanced trip planning ahead of April 25. Third-party apps like Transit and Google Maps can also be used to plan your commute on the new network.