I am always taken aback that large municipalities like Edmonton and Calgary do not have late night transit, not even one route. Apparently our cities shut down after 1 am. I recently attended a meeting for a transit summit, in which I was presented with the long term strategy for transit in Calgary. I noticed something that was lacking from the plan, late night transit was not mentioned once. I followed up with the transit employee afterwards to find the reason and I was informed that it was due to the lack of demand.
Our cities do not suddenly fall asleep once the lights are out. Nurses and doctors are busy keeping fellow citizens alive and healthy in emergency rooms and medicenters. There is also the large night-life industry of bars, pubs and restaurants that stay open to keep us entertained. Entertainment establishments tend to all close at the same time around 3am, creating a mad rush to get a large mass of people home. The people that are busy serving drinks in those establishments have to get to work somehow too. There are countless employees working night shifts or some overtime. All of these people have one less option to get around after 1 am rolls on by. Yet our transit systems want to tell us that there is no demand for night time service, not even one route on one weekend night? Those that got to their destination by transit have to rely on expensive cabs, calling a friend for a ride. Drinking and driving is problem that could be curtailed, if people know that they can get home by transit they may ditch the car and potentially save someones life.
I want to take the time to show what a late night service should look like. Obviously the ridership would not warrant the higher 15 minute frequencies you would see during peak service during the day. So to begin with the service would run at 30 minute to 1 hour frequencies. The main reason for night time service is to provide a sustainable, inexpensive way to get around the city at night time. To make a successful late night transit service provide direct routes between transit stations. The service should be set up in such a way that a person can at least get somewhat more east-west or north-south. The service will never be perfect but any level of service will be exponentially better than none at all. It is very similar to the saying "Give a dollar to the richest man in the world, and it doesn't change his overall sum. However give a dollar to the poorest man on earth, and it has an exponential impact."
The above image shows you a rough idea of what a basic late night service in Edmonton could look like. Late night transit would run at hour frequencies and would run to all corners the city. Based on the above map I am going to analyze three scenarios:
- Bare Minimum Service - 4 branches - green, yellow, purple, and orange
- City Wide Service - 7 branches - green, yellow, purple, orange, red, blue, and black
- Comprehensive Service - 7 branches & blue connectors
For all three scenarios we will assume that the buses are diesel with an average mileage of 39 L/100km. We will also assume that the price of diesel fuel is $1.07/L. The analysis will cover the five hours between 1 am and 6 am. We will assume that the bus drivers base pay is $25/hr and that they are being paid double time for these hours at $50/hr, and $250 for the entire shift. You will need to provide some security for your employees, so lets assume that a peace officer is paid $30/hr standard and $60/hr double time, or $300 for the whole night. Since ETS only employs 50 peace officers for regular service, lets assume that one officer per bus is employed. Lets also assume that 2 dispatchers are required at $60/hr for a total of $600 for the whole night. Note that this analysis does not account for costs such as maintenance, or the distance from the garage to the route.
The first scenario consists of a combined round trip total of 66 km, resulting in 26 L of spent fuel every hour. The fuel for this scenario would cost $28 every hour. Assuming that you would only need two drivers one for the orange-purple arms and one for the green-yellow arms. With a driver cost of $500, security costs of $600, dispatching costs of $600 and fuel cost of $136, for a grand total of $1836. In order to provide the bare minimum service it would only cost $2000 grand every night, and would allow its citizens a rudimentary way to travel east-west or north-south. As rudimentary as this service is, it still manages to reach major destinations such as WEM, downtown, and Whyte Ave.
The second scenario consists of a combined round trip total of 138 km, resulting in 53 L of spent fuel every hour. The fuel for this scenario would cost $57 every hour. Assuming that you would only need four drivers one for the orange-purple arms, the green-yellow arms, black-blue arms, and the red arm. With a driver cost of $1000, security costs of $1200, dispatching costs of $600 and fuel cost of $288, for a grand total of $3088. For $3500 the city would be able to provide service to and from the core to all corners of the city, hitting all major destinations such as WEM, Jasper and Whyte Ave.
The third scenario consists of a combined round trip total of 209 km, resulting in 81 L of spent fuel every hour. The fuel for this scenario would cost $87 every hour. Assuming that you would only need nine drivers one for the orange-purple arms, the green-yellow arms, black-blue arms, the red arm, and the connection arms. With a driver cost of $2250, security costs of $2700, dispatching costs of $600 and fuel cost of $438, for a grand total of $5988. For $6000 the city would be able to provide service to and from the core to all corners of the city, hitting all major destinations such as WEM, Jasper and Whyte Ave. Not only that but citizens would be able to cross travel between the routes outside of the core.
If you were to implement each scenario for the weekends (Friday-Saturday) over a year it would cost $190,944, $321,152, and $622,752 annually. The City of Edmonton has an net operating cost of $132, 000, 000. Scenario 3 would only represent 0.5% of that cost, surely we can find some money to provide service where is severely is lacking. Just as a side note according to the City of Edmonton the above budget is for 2 million service hours which works out to be $63/hr. My numbers are coming in at $180-$150/hr which indicates that my numbers are at least double the rate the city estimates. Using the city estimates the costs would come down to $66,184, $132,368, and $297,829.