On Saturday I attended the annual Edmonton Transit System Community Conference. I went last year too. The free half-day conference, which started in 1999, is a way for ETS to share information with and gather feedback from the public. The event started with a keynote by Bob Boutilier, GM of the Transportation Department for Edmonton (not just transit, but all transportation). His remarks were really interesting, and his love for public transit was definitely on display (he came to us from Toronto, where he had a major impact on that city’s public transit systems). Here are my notes from the keynote:
- This is the 10th anniversary for the Community Conference, and 2008 is the 100th anniversary for ETS.
- There were 61.9 million trips in 2007, an increase of 7.8% over 2006. ETS is anticipating 63 million trips in 2008.
- “Transit will never make you money.”
- Due to poor planning in the past, ETS is having a hard time acquiring land for LRT expansion.
- Another challenge is the “pickup truck and two car” mentality of many Albertans.
- The current city council is viewed as very pro-transit, so there are two years to make serious in-roads before new members are elected.
Bob spent quite a bit of time talking about the “5 legged monster” that is the current LRT expansion plan. The idea is to try and capture riders outside the city, so they don’t need to drive in. This regional plan means working with 23 adjacent municipalities, something ETS is quite far along with.
After the keynote, there were two breakout sessions. I attended the Manager’s Update with ETS Manager Charles Stolte, and a session Exploring New Technologies. Here are some notes:
- ETS will be hiring 240 additional operators this year.
- Clean diesel bus acquisitions: 231 in 2007/2008, 57 in 2009, 42 in 2010.
- The cost of hybrid buses has fallen to about $600,000.
- LRT car acquisitions: 37 in 2008/2009.
- The first new LRT car will arrive in mid-May, and ETS will hold a public showcase.
- ETS is working on a “bus of the future” with features like padded seats, color signs, Wi-Fi, GPS, and TVs.
- The U-Pass created 700,000 new trips in 2007/2008. There was a 30% increase in ridership at both the U of A and MacEwan.
- ETS is losing over $3 million per year due to the U-Pass.
- Centennial week will take place September 12th to 20th, 2008.
- ETS is testing a new information kiosk called “Info on the Go” at Churchill Station. It helps you with directions, routes, weather, and more.
I found the session on new technologies really disappointing, since they only covered “Info on the Go” and nothing else. Apparently they are exploring the use of text messaging, wireless Internet, and email in addition to having a physical kiosk.
Attendees received a notepad, pen, and ride-guide, and a really cool 2008 ETS calendar. It’s really high quality, and is full of historical transit photos!