Bus Network Redesign Concerns

Yesterday, Council voted 11-2 against a motion to postpone implementing the Bus Network Redesign (BNR) just days before the scheduled April 25 launch. This would have just been delaying the inevitable, and would have been an expensive delay at that. The launch was already postponed from last fall. The current system has not been overhauled since the 1990s. It worked well for a city of less than half a million, but it doesn’t serve a city of one million and growing. This change needs to happen to serve an underserved city.

I have read the comments, emails and messages. I hear the concerns about longer walking distances and safety, and I understand that people are upset.

The BNR is the result of a long process. Over the last 5 years, ETS conducted multiple public engagement campaigns. Thousands of Edmontonians participated. ETS changed about 20% of their proposed plan based on public input.

I heard directly from concerned citizens. Looking into their concerns, some were relieved when they got more facts about the new system. For example, their community would now have service at all hours and days, not just during weekday peak hours, or there are more frequent direct cross-town connections. In the new system, 93% of home addresses in the city are within 400 to 600 metres of a transit stop. Community bus routes, most often used by seniors, are placed within 300 metres of a stop.

But I understand that for some, the facts aren’t so rosy. Some people are looking at longer walks to stops, more transfers, longer trips. For some people with mobility challenges, 600 or even 300 metres is a very long way to go to access transit.

The BNR is designed to serve as many people, across the entire city, as efficiently and equitably as possible. Many folks will benefit from those frequent, direct connections between major transit hubs. But I know the new design isn’t perfect and there will be challenges. If we had millions of dollars to put into it, ETS could no doubt design a system that would make almost everyone happy. But we have to work with the financial reality. With the pandemic reducing ridership and having to stick to a tight City budget, we are making the most efficient use of the resources we have.

Launching the BNR during a time of reduced ridership will hopefully give us the opportunity to work the kinks out and improve the system as we recover from the pandemic and ridership increases. The BNR is not set in stone. It’s a plan that we can build on and improve with input from the people who use it every day. Direct feedback is the most effective way to promote change. As you use the new system, please send feedback on your experience: https://www.edmonton.ca/projects_plans/transit/bus-network-public-feedback-form

ETS held a live chat that may answer some questions: https://youtu.be/Z6iyoTfiaiI

Explore trip planning tools at edmonton.ca/newbusroutes and edmonton.ca/transitapp. These tools may suggest different options with different parameters, so explore a bit to find the best route for your needs. Assistance is also available by calling 311.

There will never be a perfect time to introduce a large-scale change like this. But the time for delay is long since past. The longer we take to implement something new, the more money we lose to an inefficient system, and the more people go entirely unserved. These are the “growing pains” of a city headed for a population of two million. The challenges we work through in the here and now will result in a better system for the city in the long term.