The Transit Riders’ Union of Edmonton’s third annual Transit Challenge begins Thursday, kicking off a week of walking, bicycling and, of course, taking transit, while leaving the car at home.
Brendan Van Alstine — my former partner in writing this column, my successor in the public relations role at TRUE, and now a city council candidate in the new ward 7 — tells me this year’s theme is “The Everyday Challenge.”
In the official release, he explains, “While previous years have focused on challenging elected officials, this year’s challenge seeks to take the conversation beyond city hall and engage a wide range of citizens from all walks of life.”
To facilitate this conversation, the challenge wraps up with a public forum, with city councillors and ETS reps, at CBC Centre Stage in Edmonton City Centre East during the noon hour of June 10.
At the same time, getting city councillors to ride the system to inform their decisions still remains at the core of the challenge. This year’s confirmed participants include Don Iveson, Ben Henderson, Amarjeet Sohi and Linda Sloan.
I’ve had the pleasure in the past to chat with the first three about their typical commutes. Henderson is close enough to walk, Iveson lives along the south LRT, and Sohi, living in and representing Mill Woods, is unfortunately stuck with the bus. Not only have these three participated every year, but their transit challenge is essentially continuous.
However, of the 13 members of council, seven councillors and the mayor — all of whom plan to run for re-election in October — have yet to accept the challenge. The most common excuse, other than no excuse at all, is they already know the ins and outs of the system.
The problem with this is — if they know the system well, and use it often, the challenge shouldn’t be a concern. Unless, of course, they are simply fair-weather transit riders.
Unfortunately, while it’s great to see councillors benefiting from the strengths of ETS (of which there are certainly many), until they have to confront the weaknesses, they are ill-prepared to address them.
And, to be completely blunt, it’s an election year. It’s hard for voters to remember who was in favour of what study or which project, but it’s easy to remember those councillors that made the effort to show that they know what ETS is really like.