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How our transit system works and who it supports will help shape our city.

Transit service is about more than just moving as many people as possible; it also reflects how much citizens value the social benefits provided by public transportation. Cities have limited funds so they must balance the needs of those who can’t drive with the need to serve the broader public.

People who don’t drive, due to cost or physical ability, (e.g., seniors, students, low income individuals, and people with disabilities) are more dependent on transit. They also tend to have different travel needs and a reduced ability to pay for service compared to the majority of users. Bus routes serving those most dependent on transit often have few riders yet provide the most social benefits. However, providing this social benefit takes resources away from the provision of other transportation modes. 

The social benefits provided by transit include better connections to various locations including social programs, and make the entire community more livable. Also, accommodating groups with special needs often provides a benefit to all riders. For example, Edmonton’s kneeling buses provide easy access for everyone.

Citizens have a variety of needs that are served by public transportation. The affordability, convenience, safety and efficiency of transit can have different impacts depending on a rider’s age, income, ability and gender. 

How does transit benefit seniors and youth?

Providing transit to seniors is important and will only become more important as Edmonton’s population continues to age. It’s estimated that by 2041, one-third of residents will be seniors. Seniors tend to make frequent, short trips and are more concerned with walking distance and cost than travel time. Edmonton’s winters can impact seniors’ ability to get to a transit stop and affect how long they can safely wait for a bus.

Edmonton has special bus routes designed specifically for seniors and students. ETS also offers discounted passes for seniors, as well as for children and students of all ages. Providing discounts helps certain groups of people, but it means that other riders must pay a larger portion to cover the cost of providing the service.

How does the provision of transit benefit low income riders?

Bus and LRT tend to serve different income groups, with LRT more likely to benefit higher income riders while lower income groups rely more on bus service. The convenience of living near LRT stations tends to make the surrounding housing more expensive. This means affordable housing is usually located further away and served by buses.

The City of Edmonton currently has a donate-a-ride program to provide free transit for low income residents and recently approved a discounted low income transit pass.

How does transit help individuals with a disability?

Safety and independence are the two most important factors associated with transit use for passengers with disabilities. Four percent of Edmonton residents identify themselves as having a disability.

To help those with limited vision, Edmonton Transit provides audible announcements on many of its transit vehicles. Also, all buses, LRT cars and the majority of bus stops and LRT stations are accessible for people with mobility concerns. However, riders in wheelchairs can sometimes find themselves in a space conflict with riders with baby strollers, since there are a limited number of special seating areas.

How does gender affect transit ridership?

Men and women tend to have different travel needs and preferences. For example, women tend to make more stops related to child care and household chores than men, especially in households with young children. Also, women are more likely than men to have concerns about their physical safety when using public transit. This can include getting to transit stops, waiting for transit, and riding on board. These concerns can limit when and where women use transit. Transit agencies are putting more emphasis on safety. With more than 50 per cent of Edmonton transit users being women, reliability of service, late night Owl service, and “request to stop services” are most helpful.

Going Forward

Edmonton is growing rapidly and our transportation needs are constantly evolving. The Transit Strategy is exploring how transit can best support Edmonton’s future by gathering feedback from all citizens, regardless of whether they use public transit or not. Our conversations show that Edmontonians are divided on whether their transit system should focus on riders with specific needs or on benefiting the most riders. This decision impacts how we design the transit network and set fares. Which is most important to you?

For More Information

Transit Strategy Project Team

Online Contact 311 Online

In Edmonton: 311
Outside Edmonton: 780-442-5311

TTY 780-944-5555

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