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Edmonton LRT ridership still trying to rebound to pre-pandemic levels

Since spring 2021, Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) monthly ridership has grown by more than 3 million, or 130 per cent, the city said Thursday.

City officials are calling it “one of the strongest post-pandemic ridership recoveries in the country.”

While the bus ridership numbers have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, LRT ridership numbers still haven’t fully rebounded.

“Bus ridership, we actually announced last February, had recovered from where we were before the pandemic and since then we’re above where we were back in 2019, which is amazing,” said Sarah Feldman, director of transit planning and ridership with ETS.

“LRT continues to grow and we’re almost at our pre-pandemic levels, which is great.”

She said weekend ridership has grown the most in recent years.

Overall, considering all modes of public transportation, ridership reached 5.3 million in May 2024, “which is phenomenal,” Feldman said.

That means 5.3 million one-way trips — which may involve multiple modes or vehicles — in a month.

“It’s been up about a million every year for the last several years and we’re back really close to where we were before the pandemic,” Feldman said.

Starting in April 2021, year-over-year monthly ridership has increased for 37 consecutive months. Between April 2023 and April 2024, ridership rose from 4.3 million to 5.2 million.

“I think it’s a really good news story and it shows that the investments that council and administration are making into transit are really paying off both in terms of safety but even increased hours, the bus network redesign, new LRT lines, they’re all contributing to more people taking transit, which is really exciting,” said Coun. Erin Rutherford.

City staff attributed some of the growth to the new Valley Line Southeast LRT, which saw 85,000 additional monthly riders in its first six months. The new line represents about 13 per cent of total LRT ridership, the city said.

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“We are seeing over 100,000 trips a day on the Valley Line and that’s been growing month over month,” Rutherford said.

Edmonton added 70,000 new annual service hours to ETS in late 2023, including more off-peak and frequent service.

Rutherford said the easier and safer transit is, the more people will take it.

“We actually had a presentation to council yesterday which showed perception of safety has increased on our transit system and people are absolutely seeing less violent incidents or incidents in general — those are both down more than 18 per cent,” she said.

“We need to continue investing in transit cleanliness and activation of our transit spaces in ways that are more inviting,” Rutherford added, suggesting things like greeters, pop-up coffee shops and buskers.

She said there’s also more enforcement and peace officers “coming online.”

ETS doesn’t have a target for ridership, Feldman said.

“But we want ridership to grow as the city grows and we want it to keep pace with growth, and even better if it outpaces growth, which means more people are choosing transit and other modes as options for their ways to get around.”

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