Transit Network Improvements Project

We are reshaping transit service in Red Deer with plans for new routes as well as improving quality, comfort, connection and safety.

The City of Red Deer’s transit system is a key part of its transportation network, and in collaboration with the community, The City of Red Deer is undertaking the Transit Network Improvements project to create an action plan to reshape the City’s transit services and create the foundation for further transit improvements.

On October 28, 2019, Council approved moving forward with the detailed planning and related infrastructure changes, subject to 2020 capital budget approvals, with a target of implementing the changes in the fall of 2020.

 

What is the Transit Network Improvements Project?

The Transit Network Improvements Project is about determining where and how transit is delivered and routed to best meet the needs of Red Deerians and transit riders in our region as it grows and changes. 

Targeting for completion by the end of 2019, the first phase of the Red Deer Transit Network Improvements project includes delivery of five initiatives, as follows: 

  • Updated Transit Services Standards, which create the framework for future decision making and define what service should look like going forward (service frequencies and hours of service for different service types, passenger amenities that should be provided at stops, stop spacing, policies, etc.).
  • New Bus Route Network and Service Plan to determine how routes could be better structured to serve customers and the growing community and what service should ultimately look like over the longer term.
  • Transit Operating and Capital Work Plan to create the step-by-step prioritized plan for investing in service, infrastructure and other supporting improvements, including what should be considered for immediate / short term implementation.
  • Development of a Rapid Bus Corridor on Gaetz Avenue to identify where Rapid Bus stations should be placed, what they should look like and what transit priority measures should be implemented on the corridor to help buses move around congestion and operate reliably (queue jump lanes, transit signal priority, etc.).
  • Review and Recommendation on Regional Transit Service Connections looking at how regional service ties into the new local network and how they can also be improved. 

We are now moving forward with the second phase of the project, which includes the detailed planning and related infrastructure changes, subject to 2020 capital budget approvals, with a target of implementing the changes in the fall of 2020.

How does this project relate to the Multimodal Transportation Plan?

The Transit Network Improvements Project seeks to translate the broad vision identified for transit in The City’s Multimodal Transportation Plan into the series of actionable steps needed to move the plan from vision to implemented reality. The Multimodal Transportation Plan identifies a number of outcomes for each transportation mode to describe what a future user of the transportation system will experience in Red Deer.

The overall goal of the Multimodal Transportation Plan is to improve the safety, quality, comfort, and connection of all modes, ultimately providing more choice for citizens in how they move around Red Deer.

What is meant by quality, comfort, connection, safety and accessibility, and efficiency and effectiveness?
  • Quality - Offers more direct and less circuitous routes, making it easier to travel across the City without having to transfer downtown;
  • Comfort - Offers higher frequency services to the highest ridership stops and destinations;
  • Connection - Better enables citizens to more easily move between neighbourhoods and the length of the City without having to transfer downtown; and offers a mix of service types to meet different passenger needs that also link to other ways of getting around Red Deer on foot, by bicycle and by automobile.
  • Safety and Accessibility – Includes further opportunities to improve passenger amenities at stops, including universally accessible stops clear of debris and snow/ice, as well as well-lit stops with garbage bins; and providing longer hours of service on the Rapid Bus and Core routes to enable more citizens to have access to jobs, school, services, and social and recreation opportunities.
  • Efficiency and Effectiveness – Better matches service to higher demand areas and times, as well as creates a network that can better serve future community growth. Depending on ridership there will be the opportunity to right size the fleet and introduce smaller CNG buses, subject to approval of the Capital budget.
What will change?

Rather than a “one size fits all” approach, the proposed new system structure focuses on providing layers of different service types that work together to serve different levels of ridership and passenger needs:

  • Gaetz Avenue Rapid Bus route becomes the system’s new spine, connecting highest ridership destinations along that corridor and linking to other connecting services at proposed new north and south transit hubs, downtown’s Sorensen Station and other points. It is proposed to offer service every 15 minutes at peak commuter times to start, with 30 minute service at other times, with the potential to increase frequency across the day with future expansion.
  • Core routes support the Rapid Bus route by providing direct service on major roads and making it easier to travel across the City without having to transfer downtown. The Core routes also connect to Rapid Bus and other routes at the proposed transit hubs. They will offer consistent 30 minute service to start, with the option to increase to 15 minutes frequencies at peak commuter times with future expansion.
  • Neighbourhood routes offer local service within neighbourhoods connecting to the Rapid Bus and Core routes at their closest transit hub. They offer service that may be less direct but which goes closer to home for customers less able to walk to a stop. Most neighbourhood routes offer 30 minute service across the day, with lower ridership routes reducing to 60 minute frequencies at lower demand times. All Neighbourhood routes offer 60 minute Sunday and holiday service to start (in keeping with current levels), with the option to increase higher ridership routes to 30 minute service over time.
  • School Services continue to offer special routes and trips designed to meet specific school student travel needs that are otherwise not served by the base transit system.
  • Targeted Services meet the needs of specific users and markets, such as industrial area commuters and special events. For instance, proposed new on-demand services will connect commuters to the Edgar Industrial Park, with a similar connection to the Queens Business Park envisioned in the future. 
  • Action Bus will continue to operate throughout the City (and some areas of the County – funded by Red Deer County) to provide door-to-door service for eligible, registered users unable to use the fully accessible fixed route system some or all of the time. Draft proposals include the opportunity to continue to invest in the service so that it can better meet ridership demand and offer hours of service closer to that of the fixed-route system.
Will routes change?

Yes, the Transit Network Improvements Project outlines a new transit route network, both for the immediate and long-term horizons. The Proposed Immediate Transit Network Map (pdf) , outlines these changes planned to be implemented in the fall of 2020; however, through the detailed planning and scheduling change, small changes to this proposed network may still occur. 

Was the public consulted for this project?

Yes, there was significant public engagement involved in this project: 

  • Validation phase (April – July 2019): This phase of public participation looked to validate the overall project values of safety, quality, comfort, and connection established in the Multimodal Transportation Plan. Included input from Council, conversations at Let’s Talk, an online survey and on-bus surveys. Over 460 people participated in this phase of the public engagement. 
  • Develop Alternatives/Options Phase (September 2019): A multifaceted approach to public participation and stakeholder engagement activities was carried out from the end of August through the third week in September. Included an online survey, stakeholder consultation and a series of eight travelling open houses at various locations across the city. Over 760 people participated in this phase of the public engagement.

Read the Summary of Public Engagement Results (pdf) .

What is the cost associated with changing the routes and schedules?

There is no operational cost increase associated with implementing the immediate transit network changes. Existing resources will be reallocated to better match service to ridership level, within Transit's current operational budget.

Will existing stops still be used with the new route network?

Pending Council approval to implement the immediate route network, the next phase of the project will include developing a bus stop plan that will identify existing stops that will remain in service, existing stops to be decommissioned, and new stops to be implemented. 

In the development of the bus stop plan, staff will take into consideration sensitivity related to relocating transit stops in neighbourhoods where the Neighbourhood Area Structure Plan did identify potential bus stop locations. Where new stops are to be installed adjacent to existing properties, discussions will be held with directly impacted landowners in order to reduce or mitigate impacts related to installation of the new bus stops. 

The 2020 Capital Budget includes a request for infrastructure to support the new route network, including transit stops and amenities.

Will the Gaetz Avenue Rapid Bus reduce travel lanes for other vehicles?

The initial implementation of the Gaetz Avenue Rapid Bus route does not include dedicated bus lanes – buses will continue to travel in the same lanes as other vehicles. Pending the 2020 Capital Budget approval, the initial improvements are planned to consist of transit signal priority measures, which use technology to reduce delays at traffic signals. This provides a balanced approach to increasing the reliability of transit service along the Gaetz Avenue corridor, with minimal impacts to other motorists. 

Will the current walking distance to transit stops be affected?

We often hear that our existing system is too circuitous and time consuming. By straightening out routes and making them more direct, we can offer more service to our existing riders as well as make the system more attractive to new customers.

With the move away from the current system to one that is more direct and less circuitous, there are tradeoffs that need to be recognized. More direct routes (e.g. straight lines) can result in less coverage into some neighbourhoods where the transportation network can be more circuitous. This means that some people may need to walk further to access transit service with the proposed route network than they currently do.

How will the new route changes be communicated to customers?

When the new routes and schedules are finalized, The City will use a variety of communication tools and channels to ensure customers are informed of the changes.

Will fares be increasing?

At this time, a fare increase is not planned. Any potential future fare changes would be considered as part of The City’s annual budget process.

Do these changes affect Action Bus?

No, these changes do not affect Action Bus service. Any future changes to service frequency, availability and hours of operation for Action Bus would be considered through The City’s annual Budget process.

What about Sunday and Holiday Service?

The proposed new route structure enables higher frequencies and longer hours of service on the Rapid Bus and Core routes on Sundays and holidays within Transit’s current operational budget.

What other improvements are planned as part of this project?

A number of future infrastructure improvements are proposed to support the development of the Gaetz Avenue Rapid Bus route to best service passengers and keep the Rapid Bus moving as reliably as possible. This includes improvements such as lengthening turn bays to provide additional space for vehicles waiting to turn, installation of left-turn signals at key locations, and the construction of a third southbound through-lane on Gaetz Avenue in two locations (42 St to 34 St and 30 St to 22 St). These improvements will not only support the Gaetz Avenue Rapid Bus route, but will also improve the transportation network for other motorists as well.

These proposed improvements are subject to landowner consultations and future budget approvals.

Proposed Gaetz Avenue Infrastructure Improvements (pdf)