The opening of the Valley Line Southeast LRT has the potential to improve transit elsewhere in the city, the Edmonton Transit Service's director suggested during a trip on the train with a crew from Speaking Municipally.
Branch manager Carrie Hotton-MacDonald explained the buses that ran as a "precursor" to the Valley Line will stop running in February as riders transition from bus to train. Meanwhile, ETS needs about 260,000 additional annual service hours to reach its service standards. Hotton-MacDonald said she hopes the precursor buses can be deployed in areas of the city where transit is less robust.
"There's quite a big gap, and this would actually provide us with about 70,000 hours that can go against the 260,000," Hotton-MacDonald said. "It's a really easy way to add the service because we already have the operators, we already have the buses, there's no capital (funding) attached to this request."
Those redistributed hours could go towards improving frequency or to "graduate" newer communities from on-demand transit, she said.
"Wait times have been high for on-demand service, driving all of us crazy. It'll help us reduce wait times, and we can graduate communities to conventional service," Hotton-MacDonald said. "We could look at adding more neighbourhoods — we still have some neighbourhoods not connected to the network at all."
Even though the city is hurting for cash and staring down a forecast 7.09% tax increase, transit is a priority for city council, said Coun. Ashley Salvador, who took part in the mobile podcast interview with Hotton-MacDonald, Coun. Anne Stevenson, and train enthusiast Mike Kunicki.
"Public transit has been chronically underinvested in in our city for decades. This is not something that has just happened in the last few years, it has been building for a very long time," Salvador said. "A significant portion of (the tax) increase does come from the police salary settlement, and of course, public safety is a primary concern, but I think we need to look at that holistic picture of what makes a city a great place to live, work, and play, and transit is a big part of that."
For much more from the train ride, including future hopes for LRT extensions, the status of transit-oriented development, and the way engineers ensured the Valley Line trains wouldn't disturb shows in the arts district, listen to the Nov. 10 episode, where you'll also hear from Tim Querengesser, Taproot's new managing editor.