New Edmonton Bus System Now Live On Google Maps

Edmonton Transit Service has redesigned the bus system which will launch on April 25, 2021.

We interviewed Sarah Feldman, Director of Planning and Scheduling at Edmonton Transit Service to get a deeper look into the Bus Network Redesign, including the On Demand Transit.

A New Bus Network

The Bus Network Redesign streamlines overall commuter experience by increasing route frequency through a combination of combining routes and reallocating hours from redundant routes. It’s a shift from the current timed-transfer system as a part of ‘Horizon 2000’ which has been in operation from August 30, 2000 until now. Routes were determined by areas of the city which are currently being served.

The current network is designed for 400m as an ideal max walking distance to a bus stop, while the new model increases that distance to 600m (note that globally, 800m is the ideal maximum walking distance to a metro rail service). 

Feldman says that currently 95% addresses (referring to any permanent building) in the city is currently within a 5 to 7 minute of a bus stop. The new system drops the figure to 93% coverage.

Here is a map of bus stops which were removed, added, and remain (with new bus service). Note the new Heritage Valley transit centre at 135 Street and Ellerslie.

On Demand Transit

A major change in the Bus Network Redesign outside of frequency and route changes is the introduction of On Demand Transit in 37 areas of the city. The selection of these areas was identified by areas which the Bus Network Redesign doesn’t serve, or areas with current low ridership thresholds.

The On Demand Transit uses today’s technology to determine where vehicles are assigned, which is more efficient than a human dial-a-bus dispatcher previously used. This means that every journey is a unique route based on that moment in time determined by the software, based on demand in the service area and in real time. If no one else requested a shuttle, the passenger would be taken directly to the connecting bus station.

One of the On Demand Transit vehicles without branded livery. Image supplied.

According to Feldman, these will be served by mini-buses similar to DATS vehicles. Note that although the buses are equipped to service those with extra mobility needs with wheelchair lift, it will not affect the DATS service.

These shuttles will pick up commuters from designated stops, and drop them off at a nearby transit centre where they would connect to a main route for their journey. The 57 new vehicles were purchased by a private operator which will be contracted on a 2-year pilot, which will be reviewed by City Council thereafter.

Image supplied.

The On Demand Transit services many newer communities, some of which have never had bus service, such as Edgemont. It will utilize many of the existing “future service” bus stops which have been built as designated pick-up and drop-off stops.

Some areas of the city also do not have enough demand even for On-Demand service. They were determined based on a number of factors, as well as surveys done with the residents.

If you’re still wondering about how On Demand Transit works, ETS has sent me a newly published guide which may be downloaded as a pdf here. Below is a map of the On Demand Transit stops and hubs.

Route Numbering

Routes with an x suffix are express routes. There are both peak and all-day express routes. This is a welcome change as it was one of the suggestions from a Yegventures article on How To Fix Transit Immediately.

The frequent routes are numbered 1-9.

Routes 51-56 (double digits) are cross-town routes. These routes allow commuters to travel from one part of the city to another without having to go through downtown.

The 3-digit route numbers are community routes. With the exception of the 200s (St. Albert Transit), 400s (Strathcona Transit), and 600s (school specials), the route numbers correspond on the city map like a clock face and increase as you move clockwise.

The Bus Network Redesign is designed to feed into Valley Line Southeast once it is up and running. Route 510x has been setup to mimic Valley Line until its opening. For those wondering, the 510x will be slightly different than the contingency route should the low-floor LRT go out of service.

New Bus Stop Designs

Unveiled in October, new designs will accompany the Bus Network Redesign. The new stops are topped with a white bus icon on blue background, with route numbers and destinations beneath. The bottom lists the stop number and transit info such as finding the next bus arrival time for the stop by texting the stop number to 31100.

As a sidenote, I’ve been advised that the ‘Stop Request’ program will continue on the new network. For the safety of customers, they can request to be dropped off (when safe to do so) between designated stops after 6pm. So if your house or access street is 2 blocks from the nearest bus stop, let the bus operator know in advance, and they will be able to let you off on the curb so that it is a shorter walk to home at night.

Trip Planning Now Online

The new Bus Network Redesign will be live on Google Maps and on ETS Trip Planner starting March 17, 2021! Although the new network rolls out April 25, starting today, if you plan your trip for April 25 or later on Google Maps or the ETS Trip Planner, you may see what your commute will be like on the new system.

ETS has also supplied us with a guide to the new Bus Network Redesign found as a pdf here. More information is available on the City of Edmonton website.