Public transit is essential for any major city, and it only becomes more important when taking into consideration the fight against climate change. As a city councillor I will work to improve Edmonton's transit by keeping the following two priorities front and centre on all transit policy decisions:
1. Fares remain affordable to all
2. Increased ridership from those currently driving vehicles for commuting
While these are two equally important goals, they do not necessarily share the same solutions, and a solution for one could ultimately result in a failure of the other. For example, a blanket solution of fare free transit (FFT) would serve as a solution for transit affordability, however it would reduce the city’s ability to invest in transit, negatively impacting the goal of reducing single occupancy vehicles. In other large cities that have implemented FFT, there has been a resulting increase in ridership but no corresponding decrease in vehicles. This seemingly contradictory result of FFT is because the increased ridership comes from individuals that would have otherwise chosen active transportation methods (cycling, rolling, walking, etc.) or induced ridership (individuals taking transit that would have otherwise not made the trip). So while transit ridership would increase, the city would see a decrease in user fees, which would cost over $130 million to subsidize with a corresponding increase in operation costs. With an already tight operating budget, this added expense would significantly reduce or completely eliminate any possibility for increased investment into transit.
Instead of fare free transit, I would like to push for solutions that result in targeted fare reduction to help those impacted most by the cost of fares and focused investment that reduces travel time and increases convenience for users.
Fares remain affordable to all
1. Make transit free for the most vulnerable groups (low-income seniors and AISH recipients) by utilizing the ARC payment system and reducing administration costs.
The goal of this plan is by eliminating the administrative costs associated with providing the already highly subsidized passes there should be minimal costs to the city. Additionally, providing these passes at no cost will be extremely beneficial to the affected individuals.
2. Reduce or eliminate costs of Senior and Low-income passes by utilizing the efficiencies of the ARC payment system.
All savings from this new system should be passed along to these individuals as they rely most heavily on public transit. With increased access to transit, this could potentially lead to increased employment within these populations which directly impacts the Edmonton economy positively.
Increased ridership from those currently driving vehicles for commuting
1. Invest in transit with the goal of reducing travel times into the core during peak hours.
This should build off the network redesign and see added busses and increased frequency of routes. Instead of completely starting over with the network redesign there should be added routes to the most overlooked areas so ease of use is increased.
2. Solutions need to be found for the first and last mile.
A number of individuals that would otherwise take transit are currently opting to drive their own vehicles as they have to travel too far to even start a trip with ETS. We need to find solutions to simplify these initial segments of the journey. The solutions will likely involve a variety of investments which may include: secure bike parking at major transit hubs (e.g. LRT stations), expanded park and ride at LRT stations, bike/car share programs integrated into the transit program, or even ridesharing credits included in transit costs.