It’ll be in the public record on Tuesday anyway, so here you go with some advance reading, and Happy Valentines Day.
Good evening Your Worship, and Councillors:
I’m here with a request that I’ve heard from plenty of people both recently and over the years: Please fix Regina Transit. This will not take a significant change to the proposed budget. It could start with only a 0.1% change this year to the tax rate. And if you’ve been impressed by the economic opportunity the RRI provides Regina, you’ll be astounded by transit’s economic stimulus potential.
Berry Vrbanovic, President of FCM describes it this way:
Public transit isn’t a luxury; it is the key to a strong economy. Without efficient, affordable transportation, the movement of people and goods in Canada’s cities will grind to a halt.
Since transit isn’t efficient here, and it’s treated as a luxury for the poor, Regina is missing out on economic opportunity that is yours for the taking. Transit must be thought of as an essential public service for anyone, and subsidizes workplaces by ensuring people have a means to get to employment, shopping, and recreation opportunities. People vote with their dollars, and only 4% of Reginans are voting for the current Transit system. This doesn’t mean transit isn’t wanted, it means its current form is not as well implemented as it could be if better funded. There’s virtually no demand to leave the system as it is, I’ve not found or heard it from people, and there’s near universal recognition that it needs more resources.
You’ll be regarded as forward thinking if you assign much more money to Regina Transit than they’ve conservatively budgeted for. No one will seriously oppose you for a 0.1% change to the budget at this point, when it’s such a win-win scenario. I also think that people who are giving Council a hard time about the RRI .45% over 10 years tax rate increase, would cut Council a lot of slack if less than a quarter of that much went toward a public service they care more about and can use every day to get to work if they choose.
In parts of downtown, you can feel the traffic grinding already, with noticeable rush hours, little available parking, and yet we’re hoping to add many hundreds or thousands more people to daily downtown life. Without sufficient adoption of public transit, perhaps double or triple the present 4% using it for commuting, it’s completely infeasible to expect that number of new people to drive and park downtown without wasting many hours stuck in traffic and circling for parking. This wastes a lot of gas too of course. The worst city in America for commuting, Washington DC, has drivers eating up an entire overtime work week of 65 hours, every year trying to park their cars at work. Let’s not approach that sort of situation, when we can get way ahead of the problem still.
One obvious shortfall that Regina Transit cannot address without a small increase to its budget is airport bus or shuttle service. Why is there still no service to the airport? This is a huge black-mark on our city from the perspective of tourists who do not prefer cabs, cannot drive, and/or do not have family/friends picking them up. What other world class city doesn’t have buses/shuttles, or even a sidewalk away from their in-town airport? There are employees who work at the airport, and surrounding businesses who deserve service too.
-Our aging “Baby boomer” population: Do we want every 85-year-old driver to feel they can’t rely on public transit to replace their car, should their eyesight fail?
On the subject of health, people who use transit often are more likely to lose unwanted weight. I encouraged some people from RQHR to present tonight, but they preferred to provide their input through Design Regina and the Transportation Master Plan which they obviously hope you’re keeping tabs on so you know what sort of transit system people are already asking for, and our health system requires.
Still talking health, why has the RQHR started its own shuttle service in our city, for its employees? Has it given up on Regina Transit to provide efficient transportation service within Regina so that parking and staff trips are feasible? It would appear that provincial tax money allocated to healthcare may be going into busing doctors and staff in Regina, instead of toward staff and equipment to reduce wait times. Perhaps an arrangement with the province could be reached so that money goes to Regina Transit and Para-transit instead so the public can benefit more directly from this additional bus service too. The City of Regina is leaving it to RQHR to reinvent the wheel.
I hope you’ll allow me to demonstrate TransitLive for you, while using my smart phone, or your iPad. You’ll see why heated shelters are required at major transfer points, since a smart phone can’t work as quickly as posted stop times, and it can’t keep your hands warm while you’re already outside looking for a bus.
From your iPad, go to http://www.transitlive.com and attempt to identify the stop time for the next bus that will take you home. If you find this task inconvenient or even impossible, please consider this is how people using the bus tend to feel if they don’t have a current paper schedule with them or posted on the bus stop.
In summary, we need more express routes, more late evening service, a bus to the airport, and on the related Para-transit issue it’s unacceptable for 2000 ride requests a month to be missed and that grossly unjust stat should be corrected by at least half by the end of this year.
Thank you for your time. I welcome questions, including ones about my petition effort to help you gauge support for some of the services requested in my presentation.
Some facts, using numbers taken from media reports about the budget:
$28.5M transit budget / $566M total budget = 5%
27 new buses at $500,000/bus = $13.5M
$13.5M new buses / $566M = 2.4% / 10 years = 0.24%/year (not compounding) increase.
$5M operational increase / $566M = 0.88% one time operational increase to manage all new bus service. If paid for over 10 years that’s a staggeringly small adjustment to the tax rate of 0.09%/year (not compounding) increase.