Edmonton and St. Albert should have the makings of a shared transit system in two years, with the buses running in three years for sure. That’s the estimate of Eddie Robar, the GM of Edmonton Transit after council’s executive committee endorsed investigating the creation of a regional transit commission.
However, a big hurdle a working group will have to clear is how to pay for an integrated system that’s fair. It’s something Coun. Michael Oshry has voiced concerns about.
“Guesstimating 90 to 95 percent of the people who are going to use this service are from outside, that are going to be commuting into Edmonton for work, I just want to make sure the citizens of Edmonton who pay for the transit aren’t paying a disproportionate share to allow people to come to work in Edmonton and commute back to St. Albert but on the city taxpayer dime.”
Mayor Don Iveson said it’s unavoidable because transit is already heavily subsidized, and Edmonton taxpayers are footing the bill. “We are subsidizing regional riders today,” he told reporters. “When we do a licence plate survey in some of our park’n’rides we find that twenty percent or more of the people parked in our park’n’ride lots have come from outside of Edmonton.”
Robar said one goal of the commission is to get it so a rider from one jurisdiction doesn’t have to buy multiple ways to pay for a trip. “Travelling and buying two separate passes for a transit system so close together is something that we’re looking to avoid. Regional fare integration is on tap for where we’re headed.”
The goal of the working group, which will include two councillors each from St. Albert and Edmonton, is to make it so other municipalities in Metro Edmonton will want to join in as well.
“Where we’re headed… be open and flexible enough for people to get on board is something that we’re interested in doing,” Robar said. “This is not a one, City of Edmonton, City of St Albert solution. We’re looking at this as a whole integrated solution for the region so it’s astronomically important.”