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OPINION: Regional transit plan makes fiscal sense

letter-sta

Over the next several weeks, 13 communities in the Capital region will voice their decision to participate in a regional public transit initiative. As a St. Albert resident who relies on public transit, I couldn’t be more pleased; I wholeheartedly support this collaborative approach.

Despite a multitude of promotional propaganda citing efficient service, environmental advantages and reduced traffic congestion, most of us who take transit do so out of necessity, not convenience. Whether it’s due to an inability to drive, financial restraints, parking hassles or a combination of factors, transit riders typically have very specific reasons for choosing transit over driving.

GPS technology and the continued transition to smart fare apps have resulted in marginal improvements for riders however, planning and implementation of transit systems is often flawed, partially due to connectivity challenges between multiple transit operators. A significant advantage of regional transit will be a reduction in transit connection issues and overlapping services, which for St. Albert is expected to result in savings of $80,000 each year.

Accessibility, with improved transit routes, to important services, like hospitals, will hopefully also be addressed. On a regular basis, I have been approached by transit riders in Edmonton, looking for an efficient, direct route to the Sturgeon Community Hospital – but currently no direct route exists. Perhaps a direct route could also slightly improve parking issues, if transit patrons knew that they could commute to and from the hospital more easily. Extended service hours early in the morning and later into the evening is also an important priority; particularly for post secondary students, individuals working in retail, and healthcare providers working night shifts.

Developing an integrated approach to planning, building, operating, and funding public transit services across several municipal boundaries is important for ensuring equity across the region. More importantly, regional transit makes fiscal sense; ensuring a more efficient use of transportation dollars. As our community populations continue to grow, I hope that every city and town council in our region, will join together in establishing a more sustainable transit system and that every community will reap significant benefits from intermunicipal transit.

Saylor McLennan, St. Albert