A longtime argument against extending ETS service later into the night or having ETS run 24 hours has been that there simply wouldn’t be the demand or enough ridership for such a service to be worthwhile.
A study by the Transit Riders’ Union of Edmonton (TRUE) on New Year’s Eve, using the bus route 4, between 99 Street and 109 Street on Whyte Avenue, has apparently proven just the opposite.
According to the study, ridership after 1 a.m. on the route 4 more than doubled, with ridership between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. being almost four times the upper service threshold set by ETS.
Also of note was that between 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. there were almost twice as many people boarding the bus as there were between 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
Some people will argue that the ridership was artificially high due to the service being free, and because New Year’s tends to draw out larger than normal crowds to the bars and clubs in Edmonton.
However, TRUE counters such criticism in the report by pointing out that increased taxi service is available on New Year’s Eve, as well as services such as Operation Red Nose, which are not available at other times of year.
Additionally, Shirley Lowe of the Old Strathcona Business Association is cited in the report as having confirmed that business at Whyte Avenue clubs this past New Year’s Eve was about equivalent to the numbers normally seen during Whyte’s regular busy season.
The report also notes that due to the frigid temperatures, the number of pedestrians on the avenue itself was greatly reduced, that the buses were consistently being flagged down and that a number of riders attempted to pay — indicating that many people using the service were neither aware that the bus was running extended hours, nor were they aware that it was free.
Sadly, though, what it comes down to is that unless the city actually takes the bold step of extending the transit service hours more than just once a year, there will always be naysayers who will argue that there isn’t enough demand for it.
But it seems that the more the issue is examined, the more evidence seems to show that the demand does exist, and that extending transit hours or running it 24 hours will help to make Edmonton a safer, more vibrant and sustainable city.