Multi-million-dollar transit expansion faces hurdles
Despite calls from civic leaders to shelve plans for a 24-hour bus service in Edmonton, a group of transit riders say they’re not giving up the fight to turn those plans into reality.
"It’s really unfortunate that they think this way, but we’ve seen many riders losing jobs because of poor bus service late at night and early in the morning," Brian Gould, a spokesman with the Transit Riders’ Union of Edmonton, said yesterday. "Those who lost their jobs were also not just barkeepers."
Last week, Mayor Stephen Mandel vocally rejected the union’s call to establish a 24-hour bus service, citing high costs of capital investment. Jim Lightbody, a civic affairs expert at the University of Alberta, has also come out strongly against the plan, saying all-night service only benefits a small sector of special-interest groups.
A report to be debated by city council on Tuesday estimates that 24-hour service will cost $10.1 million to $14.9 million a year to cover security, staff and maintenance costs.
The late-night bus service could also carry an additional 2,000 riders daily, the report states.
"The mayor says he wants a more cost-effective service, but a 24-hour service is a good way to remedy that," said Gould. "That includes things like getting riders home late at night and more people will likely become transit dependent."
About two-thirds of the city’s 150 bus routes stop operating around 10 p.m., with the remaining buses operating until 1 a.m., according to Edmonton Transit.
However, many of the city’s newer neighbourhoods still do not have late-night service, or weekend morning service, according to the report.
Toronto and Montreal are the only two cities in Canada that maintain a 24-hour bus service.
"This is a good investment and other people who live in this city are paying $30 a night for cab rides just to work here," said Gould.
"This isn’t a waste of money when you consider that it’s helping people get out of poverty."
Established last year, the riders’ union was formed by a team of students and young professionals to advocate for better ways of handling public transportation.