Edmonton's bus service, the good, the great, and the just plain ugly ... with a focus on the airport bus
Don't get me wrong, I am quite pleased, overall, with Edmonton Transit.
Service is pretty good on most routes, drivers are for the most part pleasant, patient, friendly and good drivers.
The LRT is very efficient. During rush hours, they come every five to six minutes. I can get from my home near the University's South Campus to downtown (one bus) in 25 min. to 30 min. during rush hour, and, best of all, I don't have to battle traffic heading home.
But, we have a ways to go.
Last weekend, I took the ETS route 747 (cute) bus from the Century Park LRT terminal to the International Airport. This is a great service for any traveller with a minimum of luggage and easy access to the LRT ... way cheaper than parking at or near the airport for a number of days.
1. The actual bus stop at Century Park is impossible to find the first time you use it. It's on 111 Street, not in the main bus station.
2. It costs $5, but the driver doesn't give change!!! Would it be that difficult for the Route 747 driver to carry a few fivers in his or her pocket, to give change for a 10 or 20-dollar bill? Please, no silliness about driver safety, not when it's about carrying $50 in five-dollar bills.
3. The out-bound driver was a very pleasant fellow, but he'd just been put on the route, had no briefing, and when he arrived at the airport, he didn't know where the stop (on the arrival level) was. Fortunately he figured it out on arrival.
4. The airport bus runs every half-hour during prime time, but drops to once-an-hour during the mid-day. An hour is a long time to wait for a bus at an airport in any major city. We are a major city, aren't we?
5. On the run from the airport back to the city, in the early afternoon, the bus was sitting at the airport stop (on the arrivals level) and about six of us got on before the driver got back to the bus. No attempt was made to collect the five bucks. He just got on, drove back to Century Park, opened the doors and let everybody off. Now this is good if you want to save $5, but isn't exactly good business for ETS. (It was the 1:30 p.m. bus departing the airport on Mon. Sept. 10, 2012)
In general ...
1. Edmonton Transit is way behind the technology curve. You'd think the ticketing/transfer system would be electronic, but it still works on the ancient paper transfer system. There seems to be no over-all GPS system, to see where every bus is on the grid in real time, thus having real-time, not theoretical time, schedules. Mind you, we must be one of the few cities not equipped with downtown credit-card parking meter technology. Then there's the downtown Library Parkade, that insists on cash only ...
2. There's no wi-fi in the underground portions of the LRT - in Vancouver, your smartphone keeps receiving data even when the Skytrain is underground.
3. Edmonton Transit isn't big on human beings having a little need to relieve themselves. The only ETS washroom on the LRT line I know of is in Churchill Station. Again, a little bit of technology could ensure reasonably safe and secure washrooms. Not all of us want to sleep, puke or shoot up in washrooms. Ninety-nine percent of us simply wish to use the can!
4. I use the LRT about six times a week, usually during peak periods, paying $2.30 for each one-way trip (buying tickets in strips of 10) ... in the past two years, I've been asked to produce proof of ticket purchase twice. If the fine is $250, does it not make economic (not moral) sense to not buy tickets and pay the fine since the odds on getting caught are so small? Two inspections in 600 trips: The fine would work out to less than a buck a trip.
5. It's understandable that Edmonton's LRT needs live drivers, given the considerable number of at-surface crossings. But interesting that Vancouver's light-rail system is completely automated - is it saving Greater Vancouver a whole pile in labour costs?.
6. I wonder if our bus drivers could be given some kind of technology, like photo-speeding fines. If the bus was behind a vehicle illegally in the bus-only lane, the driver could push a button to activate a system that would grab the necessary data and photograph the licence of vehicles that illegally use the bus-only lanes.