Nov 18, 2019

What If Edmonton Didn’t Have Transit?

  • Great cities have great transit because it’s a tool to stimulate our economy.
  • Transit generates $1.6 billion for Edmonton’s economy.
  • Without transit, driver’s commute times increase by 25% and parking costs would skyrocket.
  • For every $1 put into transit, we get a $3 return to our economy.

This week Edmonton City Councillors are discussing changes to our transit system, a system that generates a $1.6 billion annual value for our city and is the source of nearly 9000 jobs. With a system that is so vital to our economy, it’s a tool we need to invest in. 

The release of the provincial budget earlier this fall has everyone talking about how we need to tighten our belts and examine the ways we spend our money. We need to focus on the basic services Edmontonians rely on and make informed, practical decisions about future spending and attracting investment. For every $1 we put into transit we realize a $3 return for our economy. One dollar in – three dollars out. Not bad.

I am often asked why I care so much about transit. Basically, I believe good public transit saves all residents time and money. To explain this position let’s imagine an Edmonton without transit. 

If Edmonton abandoned it’s public transit service altogether residents would need to fundamentally change the way we travel through the city. My primary mode of transport is my vehicle. As a resident of Northeast Edmonton and the Councillor for Ward 4, I regularly travel to all corners of the city. Having absolutely no public transit wouldn’t affect my day to day movements, right? Well, let’s look at the numbers.

Without transit, driver’s commute times would increase by 25% and 23,000 more vehicles would have to drive into the core every day. Overall, residents could expect to spend an additional 165,000 person hours in vehicles on our roadways on a given weekday. That also means much more wear and tear on our roads and bridges which increases the financial burden of road repair and infrastructure maintenance.

In a no-transit Edmonton, residents will look for ways to avoid the traffic congestion and skyrocketing parking costs that come from an increase in commuter traffic. This will limit the movement of goods and services throughout our city, and would make our city less competitive in a global market. Fewer movement of goods and people, and less investment attraction. This would mean fewer job opportunities and a smaller labour pool for both employers and employees. 

The easier it is for us to travel throughout the city, the more employment opportunities we can explore. The same is true for employers. They can be confident that when they choose to do business in Edmonton there is a diverse, qualified, and mobile workforce available to them.

There is no doubt that public transit serves a great benefit for those who rely on it most: individuals who don’t have access to (or choose not to) drive a car, youth, residents with mobility barriers, and our seniors who make up one of the largest groups of transit users. But keeping people on public transit benefits drivers too. Residents using transit means there are less people on the roads and more space for those drivers who need to be there.

Mobility is about reaching our destinations in a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost and Edmonton’s transit network has not undergone a major redesign since 1997. Our city has grown a lot since then, and with a population of just under one million we need a transit system that can keep pace with our rapidly expanding city.

When we examine the overall impact, the economic argument for a robust public transit system becomes clear. It means less time in congested traffic for everyone, access to jobs, increased movement of goods and services, and lessening the financial burden of road repair and maintenance. This is why I will continue to support the need for an effective transit system for Edmonton.

Great cities have great public transit because transit is a tool to stimulate our economy, ensure access to good jobs, and get people where they need to go – both in cars and on transit.

Ridership Recovery and Growth, and Transit Service Fare Policy will be presented to Executive Committee on Monday November 18th, and the Bus Network Redesign is coming to Urban Planning Committee on Tuesday the 19th. Stay tuned for further updates. 

Want to read more? 

The Value of Edmonton Transit

The Determinants of Ridership on ETS