Every few months ETS tweaks its routes and schedules. Add a bus in one place. Trim one in another. Shift a connection. Swap a street.

Occasionally there’s an added route or three, such as the U-Pass-era addition of express-bus runs to the university. Most often, however, the changes are minor.

To be fair, city council pulls the strings. With more transit talk than action these days, promised funding doesn’t materialize and directives are often contradictory.

The resulting system is a mess. ETS is stuck playing 52-pickup and can’t — or won’t — do much more than fiddle with the cards.

If they could pick up the deck, mix in some new cards, and give it all a proper shuffle, transit riders might finally be dealt a real system.

The Transit Riders’ Union of Edmonton was hoping the first phase of the LRT extension would provide that opportunity, but with the release of updated schedules for April 26, it looks like we’ll continue waiting.

The most important change — other than the LRT extension itself and five-minute diversions of the 4 and 106 — is a forced transfer at South Campus station for most University-bound buses from the southwest.

Five minutes on the train will replace buses stuck in traffic more than twice that — assuming missed connections, long University-station climbs, and diverted buses don’t eat up the savings.

While most affected routes are merely trimmed, the 6 has been cut fully in half. The Whyte Avenue-to-University section is to be picked up by a redesigned route 7.

Perhaps a moment of silence is in order for the 6.

Downtown to Millgate (sometimes MWTC) via 99 Street, the University, and Southgate was the epitome of ETS band-aid solutions, but also my main route while living at the University.

This area, and especially these two routes, desperately needed to be reworked, but I’m not convinced that the solution is to just cut bus service and rely on the LRT.

It will probably work better when Southgate — already a busy transfer point — opens further down the line.

But while outer neighbourhoods that will get the shifted buses shouldn’t be ignored, the buses are needed to help connect new riders to the LRT.

Edmonton’s transit system needs a route shake-up and more new buses, not another Band-aid. There’s less and less to stick together each time.

– Brian Gould is a transportation planner and has served in a variety of roles with the Transit Riders’ Union of Edmonton. He’s committed to being car-less and is a vocal critic of auto-centric planning; edmontonletters@metronews.ca.

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