With Edmonton Transit Service’s new bus network in effect, some residents of Alberta Avenue and the surrounding areas are feeling left behind.
Lynett McKell has lived near 115 Avenue and 92 Street for 13 years. A single mother to three children, she says she learned of the transit revamp in December 2020 when she noticed a sign at a bus stop along 115 Avenue announcing the closure. Prior to seeing the signs, she says she was given no notice of the changes. Upon contacting the City transit office, she was told that as of April 2021, her daughter would have to catch her bus to school from 111 Avenue and 92 Street, a 10-minute walk from their home.
In 2018, Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) began the redesign of the city’s bus routes, and they had public consultation and feedback through drop-in workshops held from April 12 to June 14, 2018.
May Stirling* also lives in the area and has major concerns about safety when taking transit to work, concerns that have been heightened by the new bus system. As a woman, she feels her safety is at risk on her route to work on dark mornings and has been propositioned by johns while waiting for her bus in the area of 112 Avenue and 94 Street.
While McKell was unaware of the City’s consultation efforts, Stirling did participate in the surveys, though she sought out the opportunity herself. Despite voicing her concerns, she too did not learn about the changes until the decision had been made and notices were posted at bus stops.
Both Stirling and McKell cite safety as their top concern with the new system. The area of 111 Avenue, where McKell’s children will now meet their bus, has already had 177 reported crimes in 2021, including one homicide on April 25, according to the Edmonton Police Service’s Neighbourhood Crime Map. North of 111 Avenue, the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood has 174 reported crimes listed so far for 2021. In addition to safety concerns, both residents worry about access to transit for the community. With a lower average income in the area, both say access to reliable and convenient transit should be a priority.
“We need to take care of our city’s most vulnerable populations first and not leave them behind… literally,” says McKell. When speaking to an ETS representative, she was told the changes were a result of low ridership. Upon reaching out to Counc. Tony Caterina, she received no reply. Despite her best efforts to find answers, she has been left frustrated and concerned for the safety and well-being of her children and bus riders in the area.
Stirling’s bus stop remains the same, but will now be serviced by only one route, limiting her and her family’s options. The changes will likely impact where her son attends school next year. “This area should have some of the best transit in the city, and it feels like it’s being picked away,” Stirling says.
Though some areas of the city will be serviced by new on-demand buses, the service is not offered to residents of most communities north of downtown. Despite the proximity to downtown, this is not the only recent transportation barrier residents face as the area is also excluded from City-approved e-scooter use.
Though the new system will be evaluated within three months, McKell was told the closures along 115 Avenue are permanent. *Name changed for privacy