Imagine it’s -10º and you’re standing at a bus shelter, travel mug in hand, waiting patiently for a bus to take you to work. You’re not a regular transit user, but you’re curious whether you can reduce your car expenses, relieve roadway congestion and make a dent in your carbon footprint. Within a few minutes the bus approaches – only to whizz right by your stop because there are too many people on board. You shuffle home, not sure you’ll try transit ever again.
This scenario isn’t uncommon during any given rush hour. That’s why later this week our Transportation Committee will be discussing a report that proposes reallocating resources (50,000 services hours, in fact) from under-utilized routes to high demand routes, thereby improving the service for more people. This change is at the crux of the the ‘coverage vs. frequency’ discussion that is being evaluated during the development of the City’s transit strategy. The concept is wonderfully explained in this short video and it’s a topic I’ve been discussing for a long time.
This week’s report highlights a couple of interesting facts. The routes where ridership is low – in some cases averaging 8 riders per hour – cost the City an average of $9.50 per trip to operate. That’s a $6 loss for the City on each and every trip. Conversely, the average cost per trip across the entire system is $1.30. Broadly speaking, if we are looking at more efficient ways at delivering City services, our transit system is a great place to start. Secondly, the report reminds us that a February audit of ETS reliability showed a decline in the on-time performance of the system and it is falling below the threshold set out in the City’s policy. Reallocation of resources to high demand routes will increase the system’s overall reliability and get us closer to our target of 90% of trips departing within 3 minutes of their scheduled time.
These changes will understandably impact some Edmontonians (City staff estimate 900 weekday passengers) and will leave some communities with little or no direct transit option. I certainly empathize with these people and understand that it will mean a shift in habits for some people. However, some of these routes would need to increase ridership by 100 per cent in order to meet minimum service standards, as established by city policy. Reallocation means tens of thousands of more people will get a more reliable, more frequent transit service that wins customers over rather than pushes them away. In December, ETS began implementing some schedule enhancements like the kind that are being proposed and the results show the level of service has improved significantly.
Every day, Edmontonians step onto a bus or train 400,000 times and every year ETS provides about two million hours of service. Even if you don’t take transit yourself, you likely rely on someone who does. Which means having a high performing transit service supports business and economic development, along with the city’s environmental and social goals.
You can help with the development of our Transit Strategy by helping us refine the tradeoffs before us. FIll out the new survey here.