Green light for regional transit planning

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Collaboration between the City of St. Albert and the City of Edmonton on the idea of a separate regional transit commuter system looks set to move forward.

Motions for staff to continue to explore the concept and report back in September were passed last Monday by St. Albert city council and last Wednesday by Edmonton council’s transportation committee.

Dorian Wandzura, the general manager of Edmonton’s transportation department, called the idea of setting up a regional transit commuter system to be a “reasonable first step” to exploring integration when presenting to the Edmonton transportation committee last Wednesday.

The report to St. Albert council last week said the current concept would be to set up a third transit authority that would be in charge of inter-municipal commuting transit.

Edmonton Coun. Scott McKeen, who used to live in St. Albert and work for the Gazette, wanted to know what the benefit is for St. Albert.

St. Albert city manager Patrick Draper told Edmonton councillors that many St. Albert residents work or attend school in other communities, and he wants to make sure those people can get there in a reasonable amount of time at a reasonable cost.

“There will be a benefit to our residents in being able to have very good mobility options,” Draper said.

Other questions from Edmonton councillors asked about cost sharing, discussions with transit unions, more municipalities joining up, provincial participation and the potential risks.

“I think this is the right pathway to exploring this rather than trying to get nine groups around the table all at once,” said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, speaking about keeping the discussion between St. Albert and Edmonton for now.

Draper said that there are positive signs other communities want to join. He also said there are some indications that new federal transit money announced in the recent budget might be tied to ridership, so bulking up numbers through regional co-operation might help bring some extra funding to the capital region.

Wandzura said there’s strong interest in the provincial government in seeing regional co-operation opportunities.

“This is a picture perfect example of that,” Wandzura said.

Some of the Edmonton councillors wanted to know what St. Albert council members thought.

Draper acknowledged there were some reservations about cost implications and autonomy, but noted there were positive comments from St. Albert councillors as well.

The report that’s due back in September is expected to take a more fulsome look at governance options, possible operation models and risks and benefits for the two cities.

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