One of the goals at Edmonton Transit these days is to retain young passengers well into adulthood.
Of course, lots of school-aged children and post-secondary students already take the bus but the hope is, even as these young transit riders get older, they will continue to take transit — despite the fact they may be legally old enough or financially secure enough to drive their own car.
So why hasn’t there been a bigger push from within ETS to adopt late-night or 24-hour transit?
As far as I can see, the best way to convert riders of circumstance into riders by choice is to give them as many reasons to choose transit and as few reasons to choose the alternative (i.e. a private vehicle).
It’s no great secret that young people like to go out at night and watch movies, or go to concerts, or otherwise revel into the wee hours of the morning. It’s no secret either that the majority of young people nowadays have to work in the evenings and on the weekends to pay their way through school. So why is ETS’ evening, night and weekend service poor to non-existent?
Yeah, yeah, “There’s not as much demand for transit service on the weekends.” But it’s a chicken-and-the-egg situation: There’s no demand because there’s no service. As the saying goes, “Build it and they will come.”
Obviously, young people aren’t going to change their lifestyles around the existing hours and levels of service. If ETS really wants to convert young riders into lifelong ones then it has to offer a service that suits the lifestyle of these riders.
Over the years, I’ve worked with many people — both young and old — who take transit to work. If on a particular day, however, they plan on working late or going anywhere after work they will instead drive. Why? Because they know evening transit service is atrocious and they’d prefer to avoid the hassle.
I also know people who normally take transit everywhere, but if they plan on partying and being out past midnight, they’ll borrow somebody’s car. And maybe they’ll even drive home drunk! Why? Because they know the buses won’t be running when they want to go home.
This last week, a 20-year-old fellow I know even walked for 90 minutes to get home from a party. Why? Because he’d just barely missed the last bus of the night. I guarantee that, in a few years, he’ll be driving an SUV.
– Bryan Saunders is a local transit advocate and a strong supporter of initiatives to decrease dependence on private vehicles.