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Regional transit plan approaches final stage

Reality of integrated regional transit system to be determine this fall
1007 transit file
People wait for buses at a depot on Rivercrest Crescent in St. Albert in November 2018. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

Members of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB) will decide whether to green-light a condensed regional transit system this October.

St. Albert city council was given an update from the EMRB’s Regional Transit Services Commission (RTSC) transition team Monday evening, which outlined progress on Phase 2 of its plan to create a single integrated transit system.

Coun. Wes Brodhead, who has been involved with the RTSC from the outset, said in an interview the transition team is currently working on crafting a business case to present to the 13 EMRB members who signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the transit commission.

“(We are) establishing a business case and solidifying for everyone the value proposition and costing and all those things,” he said. “In October, the various councils in the region will have to make a decision as to whether they sign onto the next phase, which is actually standing up the commission.”

When the transition team presents its final report to municipalities in October, they will also see the dollar and cent figure required of them to buy into a regional system.

Coun. Sheena Hughes expressed skepticism during Monday’s council meeting about whether a regional transit would actually improve services and reduce costs.

“I’m looking for hard numbers and real evidence to show this is going to be a valuable merger and it can actually be sustainable financially for residents now and in future,” she said.

Brodhead said the transition team is “wrestling (these questions) to the ground” currently, looking at scope and delivery of services, funding, administration and integration with municipalities.

It is also unclear whether the future commission would be supported financially by provincial and federal governments, but Brodhead said discussions with government officials have been supportive.

However, before the new commission can begin operation, it must be approved by the Government of Alberta.

Brodhead said this is an exciting time for public transit in the region.

“I am passionate about public transit, I believe it brings value to our communities and brings quality of life to those who wouldn’t have their quality of life if public transit wasn’t provided.”

The transit commission got off the ground last October when the EMRB's 13 mayors formally signed a memorandum creating it. The commission could pull the nine transit systems in the region into one so residents can use a single bus pass to get around.

Last year, the province announced it would be chipping in around $3.7 million to get the commission off the ground.

Hannah Lawson

About the Author: Hannah Lawson

Hannah Lawson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2019 after working as editor of the Athabasca Advocate. She writes about city hall.
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