Regional transit system being considered
Capital Region Board takes on transit study
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 16, 2013 06:00 am
The Capital region plans to spend $250,000 this year to find out if it should create a regional transit board.
Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths wrote to members of the Capital Region Board (CRB) earlier this month to say that the province would chip in $165,000 to do a Capital Region Intermunicipal Transit Governance Study. The City of St. Albert applied for the grant on the board’s behalf.
The $250,000 study is meant to see if the region can save money by creating a common transit authority, said Don Iveson, Edmonton city councillor and chair of the CRB’s transit committee.
“We’re on track to have 10 different transit systems in the region,” he said, and the board wants to see if it could find efficiencies through a regional transit commission.
“Fares are a great example,” he continued. “There are over 170 different ways to pay for transit across the region right now.”
These options include student passes, tickets and more. Simplifying this – say, through a common fee structure or smart-card system – would make it easier for riders to hop between bus systems, he said.
Communities are growing closer together, said board chair and St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse, and that’s exposed gaps in our transit systems.
For example, if you need to get from St. Albert to Edmonton for medical reasons, St. Albert’s Handibus service won’t take you to Edmonton, and DATS won’t pick you up from St. Albert.
“Should there be one (transit) provider for all the disabled people?” Crouse asked.
It’s too soon to say what a Capital region transit authority would look like, Iveson said. It could create one big bus service for the whole region, or it could form a governing body that guides policies for many local providers – kind of like what Star Alliance does for airlines.
“The look and feel of the commission is far from set,” he said.
This authority would be able to see the big picture when it comes to transit and would be better able to lobby for big initiatives such as a regional LRT network, Iveson said. It could also let providers combine services and share costs.
The study itself will look at best practices for transit, Crouse said, and would make a recommendation to the board on whether or not to proceed with a regional authority.
Such a group would be a bit of a leap of faith for everyone, Iveson said, as it means sharing control over transit systems.
“It may not work for everyone.”
As the region’s main transit providers, Edmonton, St. Albert and Strathcona County would likely all need to support this regional body if it were to work, Iveson said.
When asked if Edmonton would dominate this body due to its size, he said that would depend on how it was governed (which has yet to be determined).
There’s also the question of cost sharing. Edmonton, St. Albert and Strathcona have all invested millions into buses and bus shelters, Crouse noted.
“For somebody else to come along and just jump on (that infrastructure) without paying for it? It’s not going to be an easy transition,” he said.
A smart-card system could help, Crouse added, as it would help governments know what transit systems their residents used and what amount of cash they should chip in to run them.
The study would be done this summer, Iveson said, and should be ready for review late this year.