Regional transit commission winding down after Edmonton withdraws

EMTSC CEO Paul Jankowski and COO James McDonald meet with councillors Ben Gronberg, Glen Finstad, Wes Brodhead, Gordon Harris and Andrew Knack on July 21, 2022. (Submitted by Lucas Warren - image credit)
EMTSC CEO Paul Jankowski and COO James McDonald meet with councillors Ben Gronberg, Glen Finstad, Wes Brodhead, Gordon Harris and Andrew Knack on July 21, 2022. (Submitted by Lucas Warren - image credit)

A group that was formed to expand public transit between Edmonton and nearby municipalities will be dissolving.

Last week the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Transit Services Commission directed its CEO, Paul Jankowski, to start winding down the commission.

In a news release Friday, board chair Wes Brodhead said the City of Edmonton's decision to withdraw from the group rendered EMTSC unable to deliver on its original mandate.

"As a board, our job is now to minimize any further costs while addressing any outstanding contractual liabilities," said Brodhead, a St. Albert city councillor.

Jankowski, who became the commission's CEO in May 2021, said he was proud of the work done by the board and the commission's staff.

"At the end of the day, Edmonton chose not to move forward with it, but that in no way reflects the level of the commitment and the quality of the plan that was put forward," he said in an interview Monday.

The regional transit group, more than a decade in the making, had been planning public transit routes between Edmonton, Fort Saskatchewan, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, St. Albert, Leduc, Beaumont and Devon. The commission's first service plan was scheduled to start running this spring.

Submitted by Lucas Warren
Submitted by Lucas Warren

Devon's town council voted to withdraw from the commission on Dec. 12, largely for financial reasons, and Edmonton city council followed suit by voting on Dec. 15 not to fund its first phase.

Five Edmonton city councillors voted to fund the plan, but other council members expressed concerns about cost, timing and structure.

In a tweet on Dec. 15, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the commission's proposed costs were nearly double what had been presented to city council earlier in 2022, and that 40 per cent of the $49.5-million request in tax spending over four years would go to overhead and administration.

"It is unclear when the commission model would achieve cost neutrality or savings," Sohi tweeted.

Jankowski said Edmonton's financial commitment was substantially smaller than the amount proposed under the original business plan.

He said regional transit would have served businesses and travellers in the region, playing a role in economic development.

Jankowski said the commission was debt-financed to the tune of $5.5 million last year.

The commission will have to repay that amount and terminate contracts with third-party service providers.

A closure plan will be outlined at the commission's Jan. 19 board meeting.