A new study on regional transit shows most people in the Edmonton area favour combining different municipal transit systems.
The study, conducted by Leger for the Edmonton Metro Transit Services Commission, found that four out of five respondents think that amalgamating municipal transit systems into a single transit system is an excellent or good idea. In total, 1,219 people from municipalities belonging to the commission — including St. Albert, Fort Saskatchewan, Beaumont, Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, Devon, Edmonton, and Leduc — were interviewed in September 2021.
“The results were fairly astounding,” Wes Brodhead, St. Albert city councillor and commission chair, said.
“Everybody wants really good, efficient public transit services, and they're somewhat agnostic about what's on the side of the bus."
Right now the commission is putting together the routes that will be offered to riders, and those routes should be available for municipalities and the public to review in the fall.
Brodhead said the reason this regional service is so important is because there are many people in society that rely on public transit, and that service should therefore be as good as possible.
There are also compelling arguments for creating walkable communities and focusing on environmental sustainability to help create transportation that is less carbon intensive, Brodhead said.
“The reason why we want to do regional transit, is that collectively working together, we can do a better job of providing this public transit that meets the needs of all residents within the region,” Brodhead said.
Riders will be able to go from one municipality to another with minimal interruption, Brodhead said, and the commission has a goal of having only one transfer system.
Working together will also help harmonize the fair structure, the chair said, with only one fair system that is transparent to riders.
“There won't be systemic barriers between municipalities, so you don't have to worry about transfers, or paying twice, or those sorts of things,” Brodhead said.
The survey also found that seven out of 10 respondents think public transit is valuable to their town or city. Before the pandemic started, residents were more likely to take transit, and when things return to a pre-pandemic normal, many believe they will use transit like they did before.
Some nine out of 10 future users said they had someone in their home who would be likely to use an integrated transit system in the Edmonton region.
The conception of the EMTSC started in 2008, when the province created the Capital Region Board (CRB) and gave the organization a mandate to create a transportation master plan for the region. At the time, a number of studies were done on the feasibility of regional transportation. In 2014, when some of the studies began to come back, St. Albert and Edmonton passed motions in council to work together and try to create a framework to put together a transit commission, with the goal of having other communities join.
By that time the CRB had morphed into the Edmonton Metro Region Board (EMRB), and the organization began building the business case for the commission. The province kicked over $3.7 million to contract Ernst & Young to do a report and the wheels were in motion until COVID-19 came and slowed down the process.
Now, 15 years since it was dreamed up, Brodhead said the service will be in operation in 2023.
Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette