A proposed regional transportation plan suggests there should be more cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in small urban and rural areas, and between municipalities.
The Integrated Regional Transportation Master Plan (IRTMP) was developed by a task force set up by the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB) in 2019, along with a working group of outside consultants. On May 20, the task force met to discuss the final draft, which includes four objectives for transportation systems as the region's population grows.
The second objective is to "encourage a mode shift to transit, high occupancy vehicles, and active transportation modes as viable and attractive alternatives to private automobile travel," which will make the region more environmentally sustainable and increase the region's connectivity, according to the document. The main ways to reach this goal are to increase public investments in transit infrastructure, and disincentivize car travel by increasing car-related costs, such as parking.
Justin Laurie, a councillor for the Town of Stony Plain and member of the IRTMP task force, told Taproot that while conversations around active transit tend to focus on dense urban centres like Edmonton, the concept is growing in popularity in smaller municipalities like Stony Plain.
"Whether it's walking, cycling, or e-bikes — and those are becoming very popular — people are looking for options to utilize those modes of transportation," he said.
However, investments into active transit may be harder to sell to residents of small urban areas, since cars are still much more popular overall. The IRTMP notes that the City of Edmonton had more than twice the number of people who regularly commute by bicycle compared to the region as a whole, and substantially more who commute by walking, according to City of Edmonton survey results from 2015.
Laurie is confident that investing in the infrastructure first will encourage active transit down the line.
"Options aren't used until they're available," he said, adding that a commuter bus service introduced between Spruce Grove and Edmonton a few years ago originally saw extremely low-ridership, but is now regularly at full capacity.