Edmonton’s first new transit strategy in 20 years is raising flags, with references to exploring “options with private sector transportation services” like Uber to deliver “first mile/last mile” mobility between major, busy transit routes and users’ homes.
“Keep Edmonton Transit Public” was the message from a roomful of transit union members who converged on the city council meeting where the 82-page plan was under discussion. “They said public transit provides safe and reliable service, and they encouraged looking at systems such as Dial-a-Bus for low-ridership routes,” CBC reports.
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Mayor Don Iveson appeared to downplay that part of the plan, calling the ride-sharing issue a “side comment” alongside a larger discussion of a reorganized, more efficient bus system.
“It was something that was floated as a trial balloon, but people have taken it as something to be much more serious,” he said. “I think this whole question of ride-sharing has been really blown out of proportion. It’s a distraction from the significant strategic decision that lies before council, which is, do we want higher productivity and efficiency out of the C$300 million that we spend on the buses today?”
The report calls for a 10% reduction in local transit service in favour of major routes, resulting in more frequent buses along the system’s backbone but longer walks to neighbourhood stops. “The meeting attracted several speakers who said the walk is too already too far, and the system is too onerous, especially for seniors or people with mobility issues,” CBC notes. “Many also noted that route cuts already happened across the city earlier this month, before this transit strategy was approved.”
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569 President Mark Tetterington said he’d be open to ride-sharing technologies as long as drivers remain public sector workers, noting that “the reference to private ride-sharing was in the strategy, and it was mentioned five times. We just want to make it known we’ve been providing the public transit system for 100 years, and we’ll continue to do so.”
In response to the city strategy, SumOfUs is out with a petition urging Edmonton councillors to “stop the Uberization” of public transit.
“Senior Edmonton city staff have been up front about plans to privatize public transit—including pushing the idea of handing out public money to ride-sharing companies like Uber and cancelling bus routes in underserviced neighbourhoods,” the campaign page states. But “Uber is no replacement for an essential public service. It is a profit-hungry, multi-billion-dollar corporation that will strip worker protections, safety regulations, and fairness to make a buck.”
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