Edmonton Transit in 2009

I think 2009 was a very interesting year for transit in Edmonton! There were a number of big successes, such as the launch of trip planning with Google Transit, new LRT cars, the opening of the South Campus LRT Extension, experiments with dedicated bus lanes and smart cards, the release of data for developers, lots of support for transit to the Edmonton International Airport, completion of major construction on the South LRT extension, and of course, the approval of the NAIT, West, and Southeast LRT lines. There was also some sad news, such as the violence against bus drivers and other security issues. And finally, some transit news from 2009 is either positive or negative depending on how you look at it, such as the end of trolley buses.

TransitCamp EdmontonSouth Campus LRT Grand OpeningSouth Campus LRT Grand OpeningMack & DonETS PlatinumMy Bus StopWest & Southeast LRT Announcement

Here are some of the transit-related headlines from 2009:

Also: you can see the monthly In Transit newsletters here.

Some data points for 2009:

  • The 15th annual Stuff A Bus campaign collected 31,000 kg of non perishable food items, and $17,000 in cash donations.
  • On February 1, 2009, the price of an adult monthly pass rose $7.75 to $74.25.
  • In its first six months of operation, 311 fielded 116,437 calls related to trip planning, 63,980 calls related to bus information, and 6,037 calls related to transit fares. Transit was the most commonly requested service.
  • ETS Statistics and ETS Statistics for 2009 (will be updated).

TransitCamp Edmonton Competition

At the TransitCamp Edmonton event on May 30th, it was announced that ETS was releasing route & schedule information in the Google Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) format for everyone to use. We decided to hold a small competition, to spur interest in developing applications that made use of the data! The competition closed November 30th, and I’m happy to finally share our two winners:

  1. MyStops by Grayscale Apps
  2. ETS Trip Planner by Waclaw Lany

MyStops, as you probably know, is a very popular iPhone application that gives you quick access to the schedule information for your favorite bus stops. Waclaw’s trip planner combines the stop number functionality of the official ETS Trip Planner with Google Maps routing.

Our judges, Councillor Don Iveson and Edmonton CIO Chris Moore, evaluated the submissions using three criteria:

  • Usefulness to residents
  • Visual appeal and usability
  • Inventiveness and originality

Congratulations to Andrew, Sinan, Sari, and Waclaw!


This should be another big year for transit in Edmonton. The last of the old GMC vehicles were retired in 2009, which means that ETS is now running a 100% accessible fleet. The South LRT extension is scheduled to open in April, and construction on the North LRT extension has begun. The U-Pass pilot ends this year, so a new deal will be negotiated, and NAIT students might get to join. And hopefully at some point the trolley wires will be completely removed! I can’t wait to see what else 2010 has in store for us.

Don’t forget: the Donate-a-Ride campaign is on until January 31!

Keep up-to-date on the latest transit news and announcements on Twitter using the #yegtransit hashtag!

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments or via email.

Recap: TransitCamp Edmonton

On Saturday, May 30th we held the first ever TransitCamp here in Edmonton. Overall I’d say it was a success, though it didn’t quite turn out the way I had expected! I guess that’s the way it goes with unconferences. We had about 50 people in attendance, and my primary goal of getting a group of interested citizens together with ETS to talk about transit was achieved. Most people I had a chance to talk to after said they enjoyed the event, which was great to hear.

The main issue was that we didn’t have Internet access at the World Trade Centre, despite being promised connectivity when we negotiated the space. We had a few other options (AirCard from Chris, going down to the ETS offices in Scotia Place) but they resulted in confusion more than anything. In the end we decided to cancel the two Skype sessions, which was really unfortunate but allowed us to continue.

During the confusion, however, something really interesting happened. People just started sharing and talking in little groups! It was great to see such conversations taking place, and I suppose the lesson is that they probably wouldn’t have if everything had gone according to plan.

The sessions were all great, I thought. Chris Moore started things off with an interactive discussion about Edmonton Transit IT, examining what we have now, what we’ll have if nothing changes, and what we could have if we consider some possibilities. Next up was Rhonda Toohey, who shared with us the 100 Year LRT Expansion Plan that will go before council on June 2nd. We had two ETS Platinum Bus tours with Dennis Nowicki, and everyone seemed quite impressed with the high tech buses. Brendan Van Alstine led a discussion about TRUE. I shared my presentation on Data for Developers – software developers, not land developers! Councillor Iveson finished the day off talking about “Selling Transit”, using Toronto’s Transit City (which is what Adam Giambrone was scheduled to present) as an example of a successful sell. Throughout the day we had a whiteboard where anyone could write down a question, and we answered most of them during the wrap-up session.

I’ll be working to update the TransitCamp Edmonton site with slides, resources, and more information over the next couple weeks. Be sure to check out Alain’s post on the event, and the iNews880 coverage also. Sharon took a few photos during the day, which you can see here. Eugene posted some photos here, and Grant recorded some video that you can watch here.

Thanks to everyone who came out to TransitCamp, and a special shout-out to the three who came up from Calgary! I hope we’re able to do it again soon (in a venue with Internet) – though maybe in a different format. Let me know if you have any feedback, suggestions, or other ideas!

TransitCamp Edmonton: Data for Developers

I’ve been looking forward to this presentation for a long time! As you may know, I’ve been one of the more vocal citizens asking for an API or data dump from Edmonton Transit. I think only positive things will result from giving everyone access to the data! ETS simply doesn’t have the resources to build interfaces for the iPhone, SMS, etc., so releasing the data would enable other people to build them instead!

Today at TransitCamp Edmonton, I’m pleased to share with you that ETS has become the 2nd transit authority in Canada (and 29th in the world) to release their route and schedule information for free in the GTFS format!

Here are the slides from my presentation:

The ETS GTFS data is about 16 MB compressed and 177 MB uncompressed, so it’s quite a bit of data. If you’re looking for some help getting started, I’d suggest checking out the googletransitdatafeed project and the timetablepublisher project.

We’re also going to be holding a programming competition, as a little extra incentive for you to build something cool and useful with the data. So far we’ve got three prizes: 6 months of free transit for first place, 4 months for second place, and 2 months for third place (to clarify: that’s 6 months for the team, not for each individual on the team). I don’t have all the details yet, but stay tuned. I’ll be posting more information on the TransitCamp site (and here).

I think this is fantastic. Open cities are the future, and this is a big step in the right direction for the City of Edmonton.

TransitCamp Edmonton – Saturday, May 30th

Edmonton’s first TransitCamp is less than two days away! We’ll be getting underway at about noon on Saturday at the World Trade Centre downtown. You can find all the details on our website. I’m excited for the event and I hope you are too!

We’ve got some more details to share now. You’ll have a couple opportunities to check out the ETS Platinum bus during the event, and we’ve confirmed some guest presenters. Toronto City Councillor Adam Giambrone will be joining us via Skype to talk about Transit City. TransLink’s Online Communications Advisor Jhenifer Pabillano will also join us via Skype to discuss the popular Buzzer blog, and TransLink’s other social media and community engagement initiatives.

Here’s the tentative schedule:

12:00pm Welcome & Intro
Mack Male & Councillor Don Iveson
12:05pm Edmonton Transit IT
Chris Moore, Chief Information Officer, CoE
12:30pm 100-Year LRT Vision
Rhonda Toohey, General Supervisor
Strategic Planning Section, Transportation Planning, CoE
1:00pm Transit City
Adam Giambrone, Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission
via Skype
1:30pm Data for Developers
Mack Male
2:00pm ETS Platinum Tour Open
2:30pm ETS Platinum Tour Open
3:00pm Jhenifer Pabillano, Online Communications Advisor, Translink
via Skype
3:30pm Open Open
4:00pm Wrap Up
After-Party Rose & Crown Pub (10235 101st Street)

As you can see, we’ve got a location for the official after-party! We’ll be meeting at the Rose & Crown (10235 101st Street) to continue the day’s discussions over drinks and food. Feel free to join us even if you’re unable to attend TransitCamp during the day. It should be fun!

See you on Saturday!

Introducing TransitCamp Edmonton!

I’m excited to finally announce TransitCamp Edmonton! We’re still finalizing all of the details, but we have enough nailed down now that we figured it was time to share. Inspired by BarCamp and similar events, TransitCamp is the start of a two-way dialogue about transit in Edmonton, bringing together ETS officials and citizens to discuss a range of topics. Here are the details so far:

WHO: You!
WHAT: Edmonton’s first TransitCamp!
WHERE: Edmonton World Trade Centre (9990 Jasper Avenue)map
WHEN: Saturday, May 30th, 2009 from noon until 4:30pm
WHY: Let’s work together to improve and celebrate Edmonton’s transit system!

To RSVP, send an email to transitcampedmonton@gmail.com.

There are a number of people who have come together to make this happen, including myself, Leanne Brown, City Councillor Don Iveson, Cam Linke, Dan Nielsen, and thankfully, Dennis Nowicki and Bruce Beecher from ETS. This is not an ETS event, but they are definitely going to be participating.

A few other cities have held TransitCamps in the past, including Vancouver and Toronto. I particularly like this line from the Toronto Transit Camp wiki:

Toronto Transit Camp is not a complaints department, it is a solution playground.

That’s the vibe we hope to have at our TransitCamp too.

We’re going with a pseudo-BarCamp-style schedule. That means we’ll have a few sessions pre-planned, but also time slots for anyone who’s interested to present a topic or lead a discussion. We’re still working on the pre-planned sessions, but here’s what we have so far:

  • I’ll be making an announcement related to the ETS data/API
  • Jhenifer Pabillano, TransLink’s uber blogger, has agreed to join us via Skype to chat about community engagement

I also wanted to provide a little background. I was somewhat disappointed to learn that there would not be an ETS Community Conference this year, though I’ll admit it wasn’t the best event in the world. It was very much a one-way event, but it was better than nothing. True, there was the ETS Community Fair, but that didn’t really provide an opportunity to talk with ETS on a serious, “let’s get stuff done” kind of level. It was more of a fun event, with face-painting, etc.

Don Iveson and his team have been interested in the idea of a TransitCamp for some time. Cam and I were talking with them about it a few months ago, and I volunteered to sort of take the lead on the project. I’ve been working with Leanne since then to make this happen. In the last few weeks, everything started to fall into place!

As you may have seen, quite a few people started using the #yegtransit hashtag on Twitter over the weekend, so let’s keep using that. For now, you can see related tweets here.

There’s lots of cool stuff still to come, so stay tuned. I hope you’ll join us on May 30th!