The Dream of Regional Transit Flirts with Reality

If you close your eyes and dream for a moment, it is possible to imagine how a safe, well run, single regional transit entity could contribute to making the Edmonton Metropolitan region a smartly planned, economically dynamic, culturally powerful part of the world.

Wednesday, the city took an important step forward with our transit growth. Transportation Committee approved a work plan that will investigate the integration of Edmonton and St. Albert’s transit systems. This could be an important first step in developing an integrated regional transit system with the 6 other municipalities that are currently operating their own services, in addition to any other municipal participants that might develop in the future.

Edmonton’s Transit System came from humble beginnings. In 1908, we started with a set of four streetcars that helped move the city’s 19,000 residents. Today, ETS directly serves a populations of 835,000, and the service covers 700 km2 of land. We have 942 buses, 73 Light Rail Vehicles, and over 87 million rides per year.                        

Screen_Shot_2015-05-29_at_9.05.52_AM.pngDaily transit trips between St. Albert and Edmonton have been increasing steadily, up to 4,920 in 2012, while 93,920 people drove the trip. If we can increase transit ridership with more effective integration between our two services, hopefully we can see an overall decrease in the number of individual car trips, and an increase in transit ridership over time.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that developed countries lose three per cent of GDP annually due to congestion, which is the equivalent of $7 billion dollars a year.  This transit integration will support the Capital Region Board’s goals of moving people and goods efficiently, and reduce the economic and social burden of traffic congestion.

I can’t wait to see how this work plan will develop. Clearly, there are still many details that need to be sorted out - how the funding model will work, what the routes might look like, and managing respect for local autonomy. But I’m confident that with open communication and an eye to the future, our two cities can build an integrated transit network that elevates our region as a whole.

For another perspective on our regional transit developments, you should check out Paula's Simons article on the work plan.