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Thread: Should Edmonton Transit be Privatized?

  1. #1
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    Default Should Edmonton Transit be Privatized?

    Looking at the various posts regarding our dissatisfaction with the bus and LRT service and their expansions, I began to wonder if the service would be improved if the operating motive was to make a profit as opposed to satisfying meddlesome politicians.

    Would a for-profit company have spent so many years in court fighting over a ten block stretch of trackage, would they have found an easier way to settle, or would they have let it rest and pursued more lucrative markets EG: WEM, St.Albert, Mill Woods, Leduc, etc?

    Would they increase revenue by increasing fares or would they attempt to increase passenger volume with expanded service?

    What would be the advantages and disadvantages of privatization?

    Would a monopoly be reasonable or is there a way of establishing a competitive arena where two or more companies may compete for passengers?

  2. #2
    grish
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    my guess is "no." as in it shouldn't be. as it is, we (the city) subsidize the service. i would like to see us retain the control over those funds to make sure they are spent properly and to make sure that the interests of the city come first.
    I think one way to make the transit more profitable and efficient (as well as the rest of the city) is to put in place an auditing process.

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    I don't know if privatization is the way to go for ETS. Public transit is out for the best of the people. Granted, it doesn't always come across that way, but how often would a private company provide late night service on routes that are virtually empty at 1 AM? A Monopoly in the hands of a private company might just make things a bit harder.

    Also, I have to admit, I think I have a bit of hope with the new Transportation boss. Ducharme seems to be a little more hard nosed, and will work for the best. let's give him a chance and see if he can help improve things in a few years. He's promised to have a full LRT by the end of his tenure...what does that mean? I dunno...we'll see.

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    If the skyshuttle to the Airport is any indication of what private transit would be...HELL NO.

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    The London Tube is private, is it not? There are numerous examples of good, private transit corporations so it's definitely not something to outwardly dismiss.

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    I actually LIKE the idea of privatization; however, when I brought this up during the Reimer years...KA-BLEWIE!!!! My friends in the Facility of Ed didn't like that suggestion, but Ed North's study hall came alive.. My bad, bring up privatization in rose colored glasses world...

    The two questions we need to have answered are:

    1. For low income earners that RELY on transit, what would be the program to ensure they had access to the system (aka Seniors, welfare, and yes....students...)

    2. Competition. If this is to be a monopoly, then it may as well lie with the city to ensure that point 1 is not lost. Taxi's are not reasonable competition to a bus as the fare difference is quite substantial.
    Since calm logic doesn't work, I guess it is time to employ sarcasm. ...and before you call me an a-hole...remember, I am a Dick.

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    Public Transit, in general, is an industry that relies on being a public trust, at least in North America.

    There are examples of private transit systems around the world, namely in India, Mexico, South America, and Asia. However, these examples tend to be jitney services that are privateering, chaotic, unreliable, unsafe, and often contribute to congestion and environmental concerns, rather than alleviating them.

    A good case study is Melbourne, Australia, which privatised all services in the mid 90s. The immediate result was complete disaster. Corporate interests bought the cheap infrastructure in a haphazard fashion, creating a confusing network of different operators. Chaos, in short: Connex owned the commuter rail, other companies ran the buses, multiple companies owned the tramlines, etc. And this with no fare transferrability.

    The private operators quickly found out transit was unprofitable, and hiked the fares. A quick browse for Melbourne's MetLink site reveals outrageously-high fares!

    Recently, the government stepped in (which often happens: private sector forces gov't to privatize, private sector screws-up industry, private sector begs gov't to bail them out with public funds) and formed MetLink, an overseeing agency who organizes services under one roof, with one fare-structure.

    According to the MetLink employee I spoke to a while back, this has improved service and ridership is increasing (rather than plummeting). However, bus service quality remains low, with drivers often pocketing fares, etc.

    London also has a private/public hybrid system, which has worked (albeit with aggressive enforcement) for years.

    Private public transit simply isn't sustainable in North America, with higher costs of providing service (due to lower ridership and lower densities) than in Europe, for example.

    Currently, ETS operates with 50-52 percent subsidy, and runs a VERY tight ship.

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    Most public transit in North America began life as private enterprise, quite often associated with land development interests, or with electrical companies. This made a lot of sense when transit companies were the fastest affordable way of moving around town...before cars came within reach of the majority.

    The '30s and '40s were halcyon days for transit ridership. Between the Depression and restrictions during the war, transit was most people's best bet. The TTC in Toronto socked away enough cash in this period to pay for the Yonge Street subway line. But as soon as the war ended and the economic boom started, along with a preference for automobile-oriented land development, transit started a long decline.

    Private transit makes sense when it can pack in the passengers. It made lots of sense when it was the biggest game in town. But in a city like Edmonton, with transit taking about 10% trip share, good luck. The reason most transit systems in North America were made publicly-operated entities, was because ridership declined too much for private interests to make money at it.

    So, I'm all in favour of improving service, but privatization is a terrible idea. Edmonton is nowhere near the point where private transit would be any sort of advantage over a publicly operated system.

    Better would be to totally overhaul land development practices to increase densities, mix uses, straighten out roadways, and generally reorient the shape of the city around the needs of transit and pedestrians, rather than the current focus on cars, cars, cars. But that's a huge job, and a long way off, unfortunately.

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    If transit only handles 10% of vehicle trips in the city why does Edmonton spend so much money on it? Wouldn't it make more sense to spend the money on roads if 90% of all trips are by private vehicle?

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    Tell that to StAT...
    Since calm logic doesn't work, I guess it is time to employ sarcasm. ...and before you call me an a-hole...remember, I am a Dick.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by ralph60
    If transit only handles 10% of vehicle trips in the city why does Edmonton spend so much money on it? Wouldn't it make more sense to spend the money on roads if 90% of all trips are by private vehicle?
    Because we don't want to be Los Angeles with snow.

    And in the long run, private automobiles and the roadways to accommodate them are inherently inefficient. When land is cheap, distances short, and roads are built by government it looks good. But as the maintenance cost accumulate and the distances grow the true costs show up... in lost agricultural and park land, pollution, 3+ hour commutes each way, lost productivity because cargoes are stuck on the roads etc etc.

    If Edmonton were never to get any bigger, nor the suburbs grow, then sure, I'd say spend the money on transit on roadways. But in 50 years from now Edmonton will be, as I said, Los Angeles in the snow if we don't start planing and building a transit friendly region now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ralph60
    If transit only handles 10% of vehicle trips in the city why does Edmonton spend so much money on it? Wouldn't it make more sense to spend the money on roads if 90% of all trips are by private vehicle?
    Transit doesn't handle 10% of vehicle trips, it carries 10% of person trips. Because of the efficiency of public transit and inefficiency of the auto, the actual percentage of vehicle trips by transit as compared autos is miniscule.

    The state has an obligation to spend infrastructure money in areas where there is more return on investment and more benefit to the citizens. I wouldn't say paving roads and freeways a good investment nor beneficial for citizens because they do nothing but crumble after they are built (requiring near nonstop maintenance and repaving), add to congestion, worsen pollution, and make the city unsafe and intimidating for pedestrians.

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    And then you end up with 8-lane roads, with houses being
    torn up to make room for them. Then those residents move
    to the 'burbs, demanding good roads to them. So more
    8-lane roads are made, displacing more residents, moving
    out to the 'burbs... one BIG never-ending circle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ralph60
    If transit only handles 10% of vehicle trips in the city why does Edmonton spend so much money on it? Wouldn't it make more sense to spend the money on roads if 90% of all trips are by private vehicle?
    How do you expect more than ten percent when it is only a resonable option for ten percent of commuters?

    Increase the number of people who are reached and destinations for them to reach and watch that number go up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by madsad
    (...), and make the city unsafe and intimidating for pedestrians.
    Uh...pedestrians have responsibilities too...like not trying to pick a fight with a 6,000# steel cage...

    There are ways peds and vehicles can live together...
    Since calm logic doesn't work, I guess it is time to employ sarcasm. ...and before you call me an a-hole...remember, I am a Dick.

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    Quote Originally Posted by microbus
    And then you end up with 8-lane roads, with houses being
    (...)one BIG never-ending circle.
    Yes, and welcome to life. If you built up, then other circular issues come into play. It is a part of growth.

    Managing choices in all areas is the kwy, not deamonizing someone who wants a car.

    ...and I will say it again, the car is NOT going away. Never ever ever ever. Personal Transportation is here to stay as its freedoms and luxuries will always be infinitely more attractive than crowding on a bus/stagecoach/whatever. Whether it be horses, cars, or flying whatchamacallits, personal transportation is here. The only major thing that will change is the fuel that propels them.
    Since calm logic doesn't work, I guess it is time to employ sarcasm. ...and before you call me an a-hole...remember, I am a Dick.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by RichardS
    Quote Originally Posted by microbus
    And then you end up with 8-lane roads, with houses being
    (...)one BIG never-ending circle.
    Yes, and welcome to life. If you built up, then other circular issues come into play. It is a part of growth.

    Managing choices in all areas is the kwy, not deamonizing someone who wants a car.

    ...and I will say it again, the car is NOT going away. Never ever ever ever. Personal Transportation is here to stay as its freedoms and luxuries will always be infinitely more attractive than crowding on a bus/stagecoach/whatever. Whether it be horses, cars, or flying whatchamacallits, personal transportation is here. The only major thing that will change is the fuel that propels them.
    That's interesting because the reason I like effective public transportation is just that - freedom and luxury. Whenever I travel I do my best to avoid having to rent a car. I like to be able to walk to where I want to go on my own two feet and not have to worry about parking and feeding a 1.5 ton hunk of steel and rubber. I like being able to look out the window and see what's around me, not be fixated on road signs and tail lights. I like being able to read, listen to muic or talk to my companion face to face without having to spend time and mental effort piloting a vehicle.

    If my financial and life circumstances permitted it, I would be living downtown within 4 blocks of a grocery store and and an LRT station. This Edmonton, I'd still need a car, but I wouldn't have to use it more than once a week.

    I don't find, in day to day life, that personal transportation in terms of having an automobile is freedom or luxury. It is a financial obligation of great size, and being chained to a machine and it's needs, not my own.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by RichardS
    Quote Originally Posted by madsad
    (...), and make the city unsafe and intimidating for pedestrians.
    Uh...pedestrians have responsibilities too...like not trying to pick a fight with a 6,000# steel cage...

    There are ways peds and vehicles can live together...
    The biggest problem with this city is scale. It is unwalkable because things are too far apart, because of in large part parking lots and wide roadways to handle lots of cars.

    South Edmonton Common is the sterling example of this: even if you were to take public transportation there, and even if they had proper sidewalks, it is still too far to walk from store to store becuase of all the acres of parking lots.

    Compare that to a mall, which, though it may have lots of parking lots, at least is navigable by foot once you get there. One can certainly argue that most malls are not pedestrian friendly from the outside but SEC is pedestrian hostile.

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    Yes... unless you have a car, or are only going to one store,
    SEC is poorly planned, in my opinion.
    I think I've been there twice, and cussed it out both times.

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    I cuss it out too...

    CSR, many will gladly pay for the personal transportation in their home town. When away, that may differ (cab, shuttle, bus).

    It is the outside work activites where you really see it, hockey, school, trips, etc.
    Since calm logic doesn't work, I guess it is time to employ sarcasm. ...and before you call me an a-hole...remember, I am a Dick.

  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by RichardS
    I cuss it out too...

    CSR, many will gladly pay for the personal transportation in their home town. When away, that may differ (cab, shuttle, bus).

    It is the outside work activites where you really see it, hockey, school, trips, etc.
    SEC - I avoid like the plague, but the GF lives in that part of town and it usually either go there or drive 25 minutes to find an alternative. Maybe I can get her to move

    Oh I know. One of my co-workers looks at me like little dancing leprechauns jumped out of my head when I say I'm not renting a car, I'm taking a train from Montreal to Quebec City. My best and oldest friend would, I think, walk 10 miles rather than have to sit next to others on a bus. My GF likes driving for the most part ( as long as it isn't snowing, she can't get lost, the traffic is really insanely bad ... when it suddenly becomes something the man is supposed to do )

    But for myself, I got over the novelty a long time ago. And for a while I was actually lucky enough to work in a place that had good transit connections to where I live, so I didn't need to drive to work. And I gradually realized that 99% of the time, I drive because I have to, not because I want to. For me, freedom and luxury mean not having to drive.

    I certainly not one of those that think we should all burn our automobiles and bicycle or die. But the more you cater to cars, the less choice you have. You soon build a city that leaves you no choice but to use a private vehicle as basic transportation, and then to use it not just to go from location to location, but as in the power centres, from store front to store front. Even the houses end up being built around the car, with access for the car first and aesthetics and access for the people second.

    When you take away any real alternative to the private automobile as means of transportation then you have no choice. And without choice you aren't free.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CSR
    ( as long as it isn't snowing, she can't get lost, the traffic is really insanely bad ... when it suddenly becomes something the man is supposed to do )


    OK, my dinner just hit the screen...eew...but HOW TRUE...


    anyway, no one is saying that 6we shouldn't have choice and we can design our city more to promote transit (aka no freeways everywherre), but the car will never die.

    Managed congestion is what I hear now. I still think that we need 3 freeways - AHD, Gateway/CalTrail and Yellowhead. After that, I don't care anymore. Get LRT/BRT running on spines and get the park and ride hubs up.
    Since calm logic doesn't work, I guess it is time to employ sarcasm. ...and before you call me an a-hole...remember, I am a Dick.

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    Gateway/Calgary Trail? Where would that go? I hope that it doesn't go anywhere near Strathcona or the river valley!

  24. #24
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    back to orginial question. should the transit be privatized--no, not the whole thing. however, if someone were to propose a constructing a, say wlrt or a rail line to the airport now at their own expense in exchange for keeping the profits from that segment--i would be willing to listen. or, perhaps, a private regional transit--a small scale greyhound service just for the edm region.

    i know, i know--some people will say NO PUBLIC MONEY. i would be willing to consider subsidizing it to a similar extent that the present city-owned lines are subsidized if it means the whole system will become more profitable with more people using transit.

  25. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by SAL
    Gateway/Calgary Trail? Where would that go? I hope that it doesn't go anywhere near Strathcona or the river valley!
    It would go along the CP rail right of way if and when they move out of town, and be more of an express parkway I would think than the 6-8 lane traffic mover that "freeway" conjures up.

    Anthony Henday, Whitemud and Argyll would strip off all the truck traffic, and there would probably be no access onto the road north of Argyll so it would only be carrying out of town and deep south passenger traffic downtown.

    It would be 4 lanes, go across a new bridge at Walterdale and would , possible at the cost of some of End of the Rail park, duck under Strathcona so that you don't have tons of traffic being sent right through festival and market traffic like you do now... which I think wouild actually be a good thing for Old Scona.

    So you are looking at possible a "freeway" south of Argyll somewhere, and a nicely landscaped un-interrupted entrance to the downtown north of that, which would allow Saskatchewan Dr to go back to being a scenic drive rather than a major arterial roadway.

    At least that is what I suspect Richard meant Don't want to put words in his mouth, but based on previous comments about what to do with Gateway ...

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    No. Would I want some private, non-accountable monopoly choosing how many routes it wants to run down my street? If transit gets privatised, citizens on bus routes loose all control of what bus-routes, what LRT stations, and what park and rides are built in their back yards.

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    Quote Originally Posted by linster View Post
    No. Would I want some private, non-accountable monopoly choosing how many routes it wants to run down my street? If transit gets privatised, citizens on bus routes loose all control of what bus-routes, what LRT stations, and what park and rides are built in their back yards.
    although all other forms of transit seem to be able to function as private entities. from air lines to school buses, they still have to comply with the controls imposed upon them... and how much accountability do you think transit is responsible for now - and to who - about how many routes it wants and where regardless of efficiency or ridership... i doubt private or public makes a difference. neither has a monopoly on excellence and being one or the other does not bestow it.
    "If you did not want much, there was plenty." Harper Lee

  28. #28

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    One way public / private systems can work, is that, for example, a bus route is "auctioned" off. The winner (i.e. company requiring smallest subsidy) then serves that route for a set period of time, to the criteria of the city.

    The one issue I have with private transit in city systems, is that it can get a bit confusing. For example, if you have an issue with the service, or want to know when the next bus is, who do you call, if there are multiple bus companies on the routes? Integrating transfers can be complicated too, when tickets are not standard.

    I can see a place though, if for example, we could P3 a new LRT route, and include operating and maintenance as parcel to that. Another very good opportunity might be an express bus to the airport (I don't for the life of me know why we don't already have this). On the whole though, I wonder if private will bring much benefit to Edmonton. I think privatization works better when there is a larger labor pool, as competition can break up unions and drive down costs. But that is almost impossible in a hot economy like this, so I fear privatizing, while nice in theory, may just add more layers of bureaucracy for little real gain.
    Last edited by moahunter; 23-03-2008 at 12:23 AM.

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    The city will not even review P3 propsals for the LRT
    So the question is moot

  30. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blueline View Post
    The city will not even review P3 propsals for the LRT
    So the question is moot
    That's a good point. Even if it can be shown conclusivley that a particular P3 will be cheaper and more effective, or at least, put some presure on our City to be more effective, the ideology of some socialists, or perhaps government control freaks (i.e. bureacracy that is afraid of leting loose alternatives), may sadly prevent that. If we can't even consider P3's for construction, there is no way we will ever get private operations, so I agree, the thread is moot.
    Last edited by moahunter; 24-03-2008 at 06:00 PM.

  31. #31

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    Look at Edmonton Airports. You can't tell me that if the airport was owned by the city it would be growing that fast. If ETS was owned and operated by a group as dedicated as Edmonton Airports Authority, then we would have LRT to all corners of the city and it would be way more efficient to use public transit. They aren't afraid to pull their mortgate if it means more money in the long run.

  32. #32

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    honestly, how can you say that? Where would this private group get money to push LRT to all corners of the city? How would a private group operate a transit system that doesn't even recover 1/4 of the cost to run the system? Transit doesn't make money, so unless you have money coming from the city to support a private group, it doesnt make sense. There's no point to privatizing ETS.

  33. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by moahunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Blueline View Post
    The city will not even review P3 propsals for the LRT
    So the question is moot
    That's a good point. Even if it can be shown conclusivley that a particular P3 will be cheaper and more effective, or at least, put some presure on our City to be more effective, the ideology of some socialists, or perhaps government control freaks (i.e. bureacracy that is afraid of leting loose alternatives), may sadly prevent that. If we can't even consider P3's for construction, there is no way we will ever get private operations, so I agree, the thread is moot.
    On the contrary, this thread is very important.
    Monopolies are not a good choice and I don`t think that having ETS or a private company run transit is a good plan. A better choice is a competive market. May I suggest that a "request for proposals" (RFP) be allowed to see if EPCOR or another company would be interested in running our trolley network since it has the . The province could fund 100 new trolleys (buying a larger quantity than 47 would lower costs) that ETS would own but would be leased to the successful bidder and they would operate the system, pay the drivers and run the system on green power. The RFP should be as open as possible and allow proposals to have a wide scope rather than suit a predetermined specification or plan.

    If we look at the transit system beyond trolleys you could franchise out reagions of the city north side/southside or east/west like we did with cable TV, Rogers/Shaw so that we can keep the market competative.
    Advocating a better Edmonton through effective, efficient and economical transit.

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    ^ The telecommunication industry is so competitive in Canada too lol

    And trolleys are dead, quit beating a dead horse already.

  35. #35

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    A recent article below.


    Has a decade changed anyone's mind?*




    Bus drivers rally against proposed changes to Edmonton Transit - Edmonton | Globalnews.ca

    ...
    The biggest sticking point for transit operators is the possibility of privatization of parts of the public transit system. One idea includes a partnership between the city and a private ride-share company to combat low ridership is some areas of the city.

    “We don’t believe that public funds should be going to support private companies,” said Damir Begovic, vice-president of operations with ATU Local 569.
    The union has proposed several solutions, including a ‘dial-a-bus’ for low-service areas and BRT rapid-bus transit for high-frequency areas. They also want the city to improve bus schedules, something the union said hasn’t been done in at least 20 years. ..."


    http://globalnews.ca/news/3553811/bu...onton-transit/

    Some interesting reading:


    What if Uber kills off public transport rather than cars? | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian


    https://www.theguardian.com/sustaina...ties-commuting





    Why Public Transit Is Important - The Atlantic

    https://www.theatlantic.com/business...hariot/505658/



    Privatizing Public Transit Lowers Costs And Saves Cities Money

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/adammil.../#5066d9b222e6



    Public transport, private owners – the unexamined trajectory of privatisation | Mehreen Faruqi | Opinion | The Guardian

    https://www.theguardian.com/commenti...-privatisation





    * Yes, this is an old thread by some people's standards (an ancient thread if you're a teen, a blink of an eye if you're old), but the very same issue so why scatter the thoughts? Plus we no longer live in the paper world where change meant creating new editions.
    Last edited by KC; 26-07-2017 at 08:08 PM.

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    Not sure about ETS, but can we privatize the Transportation Department... no way any type of different organizational structure could do worse.

  37. #37

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    The Transit Union is the largest union at the COE. Politicians live in fear that any changes they make to ETS may result in job actions or strikes.
    Advocating a better Edmonton through effective, efficient and economical transit.

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