The City of Edmonton hopes a proposal to improve bus service along major routes will make the system more efficient and attractive to Edmontonians—but the plan, as it stands, could leave some communities without buses at all.

Westridge resident Ryan McKay used to drive downtown. Then, tired of Fox Drive traffic, he switched to taking the neighbourhood express bus.

If the network is overhauled like the city is discussing, the bus stop he and his kids use would be eliminated.

“How do I get my kids to school?” he asked councillors Tuesday, bringing his concerns directly to city hall.

The city’s plan is to eliminate slow, meandering neighbourhood routes that have low ridership. According to an ETS spokesperson, the routes on the chopping block all had between two and five people per bus trip.

In the stead of more routes, buses would run more frequently on the major circuits.

“If we realign the routes there will be some folks who are sadly not in as good a position as they were before, but the intent is that a lot more people will be in a much better position,” explained Mayor Don Iveson.

However, the plan presents a different challenge known as the “first mile, last mile” problem—or the distance a rider needs to travel to and from their stops in order to complete a commute from Point A to Point B.

To address this, councillors have asked city staff to compare integrating a ride-share or taxi service, or a modern version of dial-a-bus.

“Looking at on-demand service, I think, is an innovative and appropriate response,” Iveson said. “Lots of other communities are going this way.”

Whichever decision is made, Ward 10 Councillor Michael Walters is asking the city to communicate it clearly to residents.

“We have to begin to spell those out for folks pretty quickly because I sense a growing frustration about, ‘What are you guys actually talking about when it comes to my neighbourhood transit needs?’” he said.

The city’s report is due in November, which staff say is enough time for council to choose and roll out a solution by mid-2020.

With files from Jeremy Thompson