St. Albert has made the right choice when it decided to get on the regional transit bus. On Monday city council agreed to join with Edmonton to form a joint regional transit service.
Although there are many details to work out, a regional approach to transit makes sense is we are to make maximum use of taxpayers dollars, to reduce vehicular traffic and to reduce greenhouse gases.
St. Albert transit director Kevin Bamber said a regional commission would first focus on linking transit service between Edmonton and St. Albert. However, provisions are in place to allow other area municipalities to join in future to expand the benefits and share the costs.
Councillor Sheena Hughes was the only councillor who voted against the move, citing concerns that there was no guarantee the regional service would save St. Albert money. She was also worried a regional service would give St. Albert less control over its transit service.
She is right to be concerned about use of taxpayers dollars, and St. Albert’s autonomy over its services. However, taxpayers dollars are already being used to build roads and maintain them. The need for transportation infrastructure will only grow if other viable transportation is not created.
Fewer dollars could be spent on roads if more people could see transit to and from St. Albert as a viable way to get to work, to school or area festivals and attractions. Maintaining current levels of spending on transit will still be a waste of money if buses are running empty. We need to attract more users.
The regional transit commission needs to plan not just for the commuters of today, but to plan for the future. What would a successful regional transit service need to do to make commuters leave their cars at home? With increased costs for parking, gas and insurance, a more effective regional transit service could make the difference.
The work of regional transit is just getting started. But to be truly successful we need to plan for the future. Motorists must see transit as an affordable, efficient and effective way to get around the region.
St. Albert Transit’s long term department plan 2013 to 2027 identified transit as a cost-effective alternative to roadway construction, a more sustainable form of transportation and an efficient and more environmentally-friendly way of getting around.
We could also attract more visitors to our city if it is easier to get here using transit.
The bottom line is a successful regional commuter transit must meet St. Albertans’ needs in terms of affordable and reliable transportation. The devil will be in the details and St. Albertans are counting on our representatives to stand up for our interests. That’s why we need to be on the ground floor to make sure this service is built with our needs in mind and our desire for affordable transportation.
Transit must be a big part of any city’s plan for the future. If regional collaboration can improve service and attract more users, it will be a big win for our city and the region.