The Bus Network Redesign represents a significant change in transit service for many parts of the west end. There are areas in Ward 5 that are losing service, and others that will see such a significant reduction in service that it feels like a complete loss for affected riders.
I don’t disagree with ETS’ rationale. The hard fact is that you have to put resources where the ridership is and we know that there are riders waiting one or two buses to be able to board, while other buses travel around the city mostly empty.
What has become clear is that the status quo is untenable. For years the solution to improving transit service was to add resources. I think it says a lot that Administration is not proposing adding more resources, but doing what council so often asks — they are living within their means.
I want to state that I support the BNR policy. This is a policy change that we fundamentally need in Edmonton to build a sustainable transit system; one that is data-driven and can sustain growth municipally and regionally. It sets out service standards for riders, which is at the heart of any customer growth and retention strategy. The business case for the policy change is solid.
So, too, is the hard work of the ETS staff that have hosted, attended and listened to thousands of transit users and many more residents. I was in some of those meetings and know how passionate people are about their transit system. We have a dedicated, knowledgeable, and forward-thinking team of people who have listened intently resident’s concerns, even when those conversations were difficult.
For the record, I have also received correspondence from residents who will benefit from the new BNR. A young woman in Ormsby reached out to explain that her current commute is an hour or more because of long wait times at West Edmonton Mall. The new BNR promises that those long waits, which so many of us associate with public transit, are minimal, and that transit users get to their destinations faster.
Ultimately, I voted against the Bus Network Redesign. What persuaded me in the end was a piece of correspondence that I received from a stalwart critic of the BNR. The criticism that the BNR will be put in place with no trial or testing of either the BNR itself or the alternative services leaves me in a difficult position of supporting the principles of the BNR and the strong financial sense it makes, but also not knowing any details on implementation or what September 2020 will look like for residents of Ward 5 in terms of reasonable public transit access.
At the end of the day, I couldn’t vote to change something knowing the hardship it will cause of a minority of residents. I understand that you can’t make policy to fit the minority, but the minority still merits a say and I believe in the necessity of strong opposition in government. All I can say, then, is that I look forward to being proven wrong.
The Bus Network Redesign is scheduled for implementation next fall (you can review the new network here) and a detailed report on the First Km/Last Km solution will be back to Council in February. I do think that the on-demand option will ultimately provide better service to residents than what they currently have and I encourage affected residents to participate in the First Km/Last Km implementation process.
My office is open for your feedback on transit or any other municipal concerns and can be reached by phone at 780-496-8120, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @sjlhamilton.