As our population grows, it is critical that we offer transportation alternatives for Edmonton residents. Edmonton’s population last year was approximately 1.1 million. Assuming the rapid growth continues, we could reach our City Plan 1.25 million milestone far sooner than anticipated.
From July 1, 2021 to June 30th, 2023, the population in the City of Edmonton increased by approximately 70,000. That’s a 7% increase in just 2 years. That’s on top of the 70,000 people that moved in from 2016 to 2021. Putting that into perspective, if a new city of 70,000 people were to form in Alberta tomorrow, that would make it the 6th largest city in Alberta, and we've grown 140,000 people in 8 years.
We are rapidly growing towards a city of two million people– but we can’t afford to be a city of two million cars.
While personal vehicle trips will continue to be the vast majority of trips in Edmonton, can you imagine the traffic jams if everyone drives? Or the parking shortages? Your freedom to drive is only possible when others choose not to exercise their same freedom at the same time.
Great news! Between 2022 and 2023, ETS experienced a 27% increase in ridership. Millions of trips per week are taken on transit-- the the vast majority of which by the humble bus. More people are making choices around where they live and work based on access to fast and frequent public transit -- a key indicator in our city plan. Whether or not we have excellent public transit is ultimately a political choice, and I think we are starting to make better choices thanks to your advocacy!
Here’s a few of the good news items for Transit coming this spring:
- Starting February 4th, new transit service hours are being added! That means more buses on more routes, more often. ETS will begin implementing council-invested service growth hours from the fall budget. The Valley Line is performing well and we are increasing frequency of trips. The formerly route 73 bus is being redeployed and the hours are being redeployed to the system– representing a 3% increase in weekly bus service hours. This is your tax dollars hard at work. Which routes are being improved? Read more: https://www.edmonton.ca/edmonton-transit-system-ets
- Fast and frequent trips build ridership. City Council (March 19th, Urban Planning Committee) will be receiving a report on TRANSIT PRIORITY MEASURES -- dedicated lanes, signaling improvements etc. We previously allocated funding to support this work and I’m excited for what it could mean, especially for high-congestion areas where the bus is sitting behind rows of traffic. These changes will be implemented this fall.
- City Council (Urban Planning Committee, May 22nd)will receive an update on future BUS RAPID TRANSIT. This is a really exciting opportunity to dramatically increase our speed and connectivity at a reduced cost compared to LRT. While funding and construction is a priority for me in the next four year capital budget, I’m excited about what improvements we can make along these lines in the short-term.
Thinking about equity and those "captured riders", not "choice riders" who depend on public transit the most:
According to the government of Alberta, vehicle registrations in Edmonton have been around 700,000 for the last 5 years, which averages about one car per person for about 65% of the humans in Edmonton. We know that the riders are more likely to be younger, women, racialized, and lower-income. In other words, one of the most anti-racist and inclusive things we can do is invest in better public transit. Better public transit is a game-changer for ending poverty.
Contextualizing Transit Costs and benefits to Edmonton:
Next to the Edmonton Police, Public Transit is the second largest item in the city budget, and yes, it is a considerable societal investment. With a global affordability crisis, Transit is a surefire way to save individuals and society money. Insurance companies (Ratehub) have noted that individual car ownership costs over $1300 a month -- that's $15,000 per year, and that’s on top of the rising costs to purchase a new or used car.
Let's face it: building a city around the needs of cars is incredibly expensive.
During our current four year budget Edmontonians are spending $1,800 million on roads, about half of that going to growth, half going to renewal. In other words we are spending $965 million to renew the roads we all ready have during this four year budget. Let that sink in. And that's not even the new roads, bridges, or lanes. Over 8 years, we are spending over $4.2 Billion as a city on roads.
But until now, it has been very challenging to provide a total cost accounting of car investments versus transit investments. We want to make sure we are comparing apples to apples.
A new study from Harvard found that the vehicle economy costs $64 Billion annually to the state of Massachuchetts.
Policymakers and budgetary analysts have long argued that roads are heavily subsidized. The diffusion of spending among federal, state, and local government entities, along with the complexity of indirect costs, make it difficult to understand the fully loaded cost of the vehicle economy.
Individual families may track the personal costs of car ownership to their budgets, but they rarely consider the total cost of operating and maintaining the vehicle economy because the vast majority of roads and parking areas are provided free at the point of use.
This study is intended to increase transparency regarding road-related spending and to provide a comprehensive estimate of the economic cost of Massachusetts’ vehicle economy. (https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/01/massachusetts-car-economy-costs-64-billion-study-finds/)
Improvements to Transit safety and well-being:
Transit safety has received a ton of discussion and attention from me in other places, so I don't want to belabour it as part of this post. If you are interested in learning more about the work undertaken by council to help make transit safer, the Mayor has a great compilation of our actions here: mayorsohi.ca/safety
- Hired a Director of Transit Safety in Fall 2022 to lead transit safety work in collaboration with Administration, EPS and Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society.
- Implemented Transit Peace Officer 24-hour deployment models, and added 19 new Peace Officers.
- Funded Transit Community Action Teams (TCAT) made up of 11 Peace Officers that act as a more consistent presence on the LRT and platforms throughout the transit network.
- Expanded the Community Outreach Transit Team (COTT) to seven teams, each consisting of one Outreach Worker and one Peace Officer that now operate in transit spaces seven days a week.
- Conducting ongoing safety audits of LRT stations and transit centres.
- Implementing a safer washroom strategy in transit facilities, adding washroom attendants at five locations and measures to reduce disorder in washrooms.
- Made bylaw amendments in May 2022 confirming that inappropriate use of transit property, actions such as remaining in transit stations, vehicles, or platforms for long periods of time for purposes unrelated to the use of transit services, or visible use of illicit substances, is not permitted.
- Explore the full Transit Safety Plan here.
Further, from our four year capital budget City Council questions:
Here are some of the Public transit presentations from Transit Camp 2023: