[Update: Sept. 29, 2011: The City announced yesterday that the pilot will run in January of next year. It means the pilot will have a full university term to be evaulated, and gives more time for neighbourhood input into how the program will be evaluated - one of the major questions that came up in the Sept. 7 public meeting and survey feedback. I support the pilot proceeding however I do not see this type of service as the ultimate format for late night transit. My first comment to the press yesterday was that in my opinion proper late night transit should be the the core routes like the 1, 2, 4, 8, and 9 running later, not a service like this tailored around the hospitality industry. Nevertheless, I can support the pilot going ahead as it will help us understand some of the issues and opportunities of running transit later into the night, and will inform Council's eventual debate about what late-night transit should look like. Part of that debate will occur when the Late Night Transit Service Inquiry Cllr. Henderson and I submitted comes back to the Transportation Committee in November.]
At my request the City’s Responsible Hospitality Edmonton group held a public meeting last night on the Night Ride pilot originally slated to begin the first week of September.
I had intervened to postpone the project in light of the confusion and uncertainty about what was being proposed. This uncertainly led to fear on the part of the communities near Southgate, and the lack of consultation led to mistrust of the initiative, which I fully understand.
To be upfront, I support the general concept of late night transit, not just from hospitality zones but along key corridors in the city. This pilot could tell us some key things about actual demand and also how to deal with patrons at that time of night. However, if the pilot is a disaster in terms of negative impacts on adjacent residents, I will be the first person calling for its early termination.
I do believe last night’s meeting and the information now posted on-line have reassured some neighbours that many of their worst fears have been anticipated by the pilot’s designers. For example:
- It’s not an express bus to Southgate – people will be getting off along the route and the buses are expected to be three-quarters empty by the time they get to Southgate.
- Normal fares will apply – many people had reservations about it being a ‘free ride’.
- Riders will not be unattended at Southgate – there will be security at Southgate transit centre.
- The pedway from the transit centre across to the neighbourhood will not be open – it will not serve as a gangplank for strangers into the community to the west.
An FAQ is downloadable here as well with further details of what’s proposed.
I know that last night’s meeting didn’t convince everyone that this is a great idea. It wasn’t intended to. It was to hear concerns, take suggestions for how the pilot can be improved, and get community input on how it should be evaluated.
For those who were unable to attend the meeting there is also an on-line survey.
We heard that people are concerned that this pilot is just the thin edge of a wedge, and that the volumes of people could increase over time, so even if the impacts are minimized now they too will increase over time. We heard that the many residents would still like route to terminate elsewhere, and we heard that some would like it or loop back to Whyte somewhere further north and without a cab stand. We heard that some do not support running any form of late night transit under any circumstances.
We also heard from some who think that late night service is overdue in Edmonton and support a pilot to test the need and test what’s needed to make it safe and minimize impacts to neighbours. Representatives from the taxi industry also spoke in favour and suggested that the incentives are there for a good supply of cabs to keep people moving who need to travel further than Southgate.
So once the consultation feedback is in, and once any modifications are incorporated, my sense is that we should probably, with some provisos, give this a try. The provisos are based on what I heard last night and from earlier feedback:
- Again, if the pilot is a disaster in terms of negative impacts on adjacent residents, I will be the first person calling for its early termination.
- Just because Southgate is the terminus for the pilot, it doesn’t automatically mean that Southgate is the best place to terminate any future late night transit route that might be put in at some future date.
- Most importantly, the neighbourhoods adjacent must be included much more meaningfully in evaluating the pilot than they were on the planning of the pilot.