Edmonton Transit's citizens panel to ask for several pilot projects in 2019

Edmonton city councillors will be hearing proposals next week for ways to fill in the gaps that will emerge in the new transit system that is due to roll out in the fall of 2020.

The main Edmonton Transit Service network will have longer and more frequent trips, however, a citizens panel has been brainstorming on ways to cover that first and last kilometre between the bus stop and your final destination.

When the current ETS system was compared last November to what is being proposed for next fall, gaps were found that could potentially see riders having to walk anywhere from an extra two to five minutes to get to their bus stop under the new plan compared to now.

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The Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board (ETSAB) will ask city council’s urban planning committee next Tuesday for a range of options to test in different parts of the city.

In an interview, ETSAB chair Charlie Kelly said they’d like to see ride share, car share, bike share and others.

“There are a lot of possible options. We can’t expect the city to do all of them all at once. But we would like to make transit more of a seamless kind of service.”

Kelly said another concern is keeping sidewalks and pathways clear in the winter, with good lighting so riders can “feel secure, feel safe.”

“We look at walkability as being part of the issue,” Kelly said.

The transit union has raised concerns about ride-share options like Uber and Lyft, however, president Mark Tetterington said since the idea was first broached in the summer of 2017, the ATU (Amalgamated Transit Union) has made progress convincing city staff to look at other options.

“They’re not screened,” he said of those drivers. “They’re not vetted properly, and for some, it’s just a part-time gig so they don’t take the job too seriously — so there’s a lot of turnover.”

Tetterington said he’s familiar with experiments done in small municipalities like Cambridge Ont., but thinks Edmonton is too complex to try something similar here.

Tetterington said at Tuesday’s meeting he’ll talk about on-demand bus service, using 30-foot buses that can be ordered through an app.

“The app tells you approximately what time the bus will be coming by in the area, so people will come out to the bus stop and wait for the bus,” he said.

Tetterington also said that an on-demand system can be designed to be a mid-service level option, between those who are able to walk, and those who require full DATS service.

“It’s less expensive to operate and it’s also wheelchair accessible. That’s a key, to help those people out that are mobility challenged. That’s important for us.”

The November update saw Edmonton Transit propose four locations to pilot supplemental service: Cameron Heights/Wedgewood, Northwest Industrial, Brander Gardens/Brookside, and Grandview/Lansdowne/Aspen Gardens.

The city report report that was released Thursday said “administration recommends undertaking a pilot project as an appropriate next step to test alternative service delivery models.”

“A pilot project could be implemented at the same time as the launch of the new bus network in mid-2020.”

Kelly said they’d like to see other pilots done sooner.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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