Edmonton's bus network redesign
On April 25, Edmonton’s new bus network redesign comes into effect. All city bus routes -- and stops -- will be changed. If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to look at how you’ll be affected, I encourage you to take a look here.
Transit is often a hot topic of conversation and the new redesign is certainly no different. When news of a redesign first came up, I pulled out my city map and spread it across the table to speculate on what I’d do. Then, when the city was running public consultations, I headed over to the Clareview Rec Centre to take a look. At that time, I was relying solely on transit to get me where I needed to go and, while I knew that I wouldn’t be relying solely on transit for much longer, I was very interested.
The idea behind the redesign is what I would do: more direct routes, more frequent routes, and some rapid routes. However, I believe that as good as the ideas are behind the redesign, the final map is flawed. And from conversations I’ve been having and reading about, it sounds like many people feel the same way.
My biggest problem is that many stops are being removed, which means that some users will have to walk twice as far to their bus stop. For some, this will not be a problem, however for the elderly, mobility impaired, and families with young children, this could be the difference between being able to use transit or not. Furthermore, walking twice as far in the summer is a very different thing than walking that far in the winter when it can (and, as you well know, does) reach temperatures of -30 or colder. That long walk, coupled with an uncertain length of time waiting at the bus stop (was the bus early? Is it late?) could be dangerous. From what I can see, the communities of Brintnell, Hermitage, and Hollick Kenyon are seeing the greatest distance increases, though I don’t think Belvedere or York are far behind.
I remain surprised that there is not much service along Victoria Trail, which was a gap that I believe existed previously and still remains unaddressed. In addition, the new network has no bus service on 137 Avenue east of Fort Road. I believe both of these gaps in service represent a glaring lack, especially considering the number of businesses along both these main roads that residents use. I also believe it’s a mistake to remove service to Henwood. At the very least, this centre would probably benefit from on-demand service, which I’ll speak about next.
As part of its redesign, the city is rolling out an on-demand service, which could help those for whom the distance is a concern. But, while that service is being offered to Edmontonians in 37 communities and 16 seniors’ residences, not one of those is in north/northeast Edmonton. In fact, both the current Ward 4 and Ward 3 are excluded from this service. This is unacceptable and it is worth noting that when Councillor Dziadyk of Ward 3 put forward a motion to delay the roll-out to address this, the only councillor who joined him in voting for a delay was Mike Nickel.
Another concern I have is the lack of intersection in the bus routes. While going to a transit centre ensures you have more access to more routes, sometimes, that could result in unnecessary wait times, whereas if different routes intersected (such as community and direct or rapid routes) you might be able to get where you need to go more quickly or easily. I’ll note here, too, that there are no rapid routes that begin/end in northeast Edmonton.
Finally, at Clareview station, routes fall into two categories: west and east. Whereas currently buses like the 2,11,182 cross 50th street, all buses that are east of 50th will stop at the east side of the centre and all buses west of 50th will stop on the west side. While this might be easier to understand and plan for, it is one more decision that makes life more difficult for those with mobility concerns as they will all need to head down to pass through the station and then back up.
It is important to recognize that some of our newer communities, such as Cy Becker, will now have transit service and looks like that’s the same for the eastern part of the Fraser community. Additionally, there is service to Manning Town Crossing, which is important, but again, that service comes only from west of Fort Road. Manning Town Crossing is inaccessible via transit from the eastern side. Northeast Edmonton continues to grow, with growth especially evident in communities such as Cy Becker, Ebbers, Fraser, Gorman, McConachie and the rural areas. We need to ensure that new communities are well-connected with transit because to encourage use, the city needs to make sure transit is available early in new communities.
Let me conclude by saying this: we needed a redesign and doing a complete overhaul is better than tinkering with only some routes. And, like I said, the idea is right, but I do hope that the city takes feedback and concerns seriously when they look into adjustments down the road. I’m interested to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to email, call, or drop a note on my Facebook page.