Transit Review Notes

Here are some random thoughts about transit, that I’d like to bring up at the 4pm meeting on Wednesday at City Hall’s Henry Baker Hall.

The Transit Petition will be wrapping up prior to the April 29th City Council meeting, so please have them in the mail, or returned to me by Earth Day, April 22nd.

  • The first map I saw left no bus service on Vic. Ave. through downtown, which will be essential to provide in order to connect with the Albert St. express route. The most recent map has this at least, but it would be nicer if it could serve Vic. Ave all of the way to Elphinstone St.
  • I tried to convince Nathan Luhning at YQR Transit to re-number the express buses differently so they are 1xx instead of 3x, 4x, & 5x and less visible from a distance compared to other 2 digit regular buses. Buses on avenues could then be odd numbered, and streets even numbered.
  • I was not too encouraged by Mayor Fougere’s comment to me that he thought the Airport should pay for a bus to the airport. Like the Provincial government is paying for a shuttle bus to the hospitals for staff-only, because the City isn’t keeping up? It’s framing the situation in a way that he can say he’s for better bus service, but knows it won’t happen because the City won’t put up the required money. There is bus service to locations much farther from downtown already, and the airport has residences on 3 sides now as Harbour Landing, and Fairways West start to fill in and sprawl away from downtown.
  • Transit users can spend more in the local economy. Typically, car ownership costs an individual $8,000/year. A bus pass is only hundreds of dollars a year, while cabs, cycling, walking, and car sharing and renting can fill in occasional times the bus doesn’t fit for a situation. A transit user has thousands of dollars more a year to spend within the shops and restaurants of Regina, assuming they aren’t encouraged to just stay home like is presently done with Sunday and late evening service gaps.
  • The reason I’m passionate about improving transit for every Regina citizen, is not just because that’s required so I can have a better experience as a Transit user, but because a modern city needs excellent transit in order to be doing everything it can be to meaningfully tackle the climate change crisis. Having great transit is absolutely essential to both our economy and our environment going in the direction we want them to go.
  • “Extended Hours of Operation” – the report for the committee refers to “21 comments requesting” this. I have signatures from more than 13 times as many electors requesting precisely this. Why is this important? Think of the bus as you would your car. If someone told you that you could use your car to go to a party, but you couldn’t on the way home, what would you do? Would you go at all? Catch a ride from a friend? Take a cab? Take the bus? People take their car because they are sure they will be able to use it for a round trip. Without extending service hours for Regina Transit, people will not easily switch away from a car that is good for a round trip, to a bus service where they have to have a backup plan to get home.
  • Downtown transfer point: 11th Ave. should potentially be blocked off to regular auto traffic for a couple blocks, so passengers can transfer in greater safety. Parking should be eliminated in bus routes downtown, to enhance safety, and allow the buses to run on time during rush hour and snowy days.
  • The language in the report to the committee, is problematic. It has a huge bias toward ensuring there is no need to increase the transit budget, rather than ensuring there is an effective transit service citizens are asking for. For example:
    “Enhancing the frequency in the evening is not warranted at this time, as there are more pressing needs in ensuring all areas of the city have transit service during the peak travel time periods.” This remark fails to consider that there is lower ridership in the evenings because service hours and frequency cutbacks have forced Reginans who would have used the bus in the evening, to resort to private car ownership in order to obtain convenient transportation. The question is, does ridership need to increase before the service level does, or does service level determine the ridership uptake? If this committee doesn’t recognize that that cart has to come before the rider can get into it, then it’s not going to make the correct recommendations.

The committee on Wednesday can:
“recommend that Council consider further enhancements to conventional transit routing in the
2014 budget (requires 2014 budget increase).”
And they must do that for Regina Transit to have the money it needs to prevent routes from being closed, and inconvenience people to the point where they give up transit and buy a car.

To prevent people from giving up and resorting to cars when they’d rather be using the bus, here’s a recommendation in the committee’s package:

Frequency Rates – Higher frequencies of buses will allow customers to have more travel options and minimize wait times at bus stops. Currently, most transit routes operate at 20 minute peak service; 30 minute off peak service and 60 minutes in the late evening. As part of the Service and Performance Standards that Transit recently implemented, it is recommended that some routes operate at 15 minute intervals during peak times, while others routes would operate at 30 minute intervals all day, based on ridership levels.

I support that, with the small note that “ridership levels” will never improve past a certain point if service levels are not high enough to entice riders who rely upon convenience. The huge problem with the proposed express routes on Victoria and Albert, are they aren’t even scheduled to run after 9pm, any day of the week! This is exactly opposite of what the people signing my petition are looking for, and is opposite of the report recommendation to have some routes “operate at 30 minute intervals all day”.

If people cannot get home on the bus after going somewhere on the bus, they will in many cases not choose to go anywhere on the bus at all, thus depressing ridership numbers. This is a big factor in why Sunday ridership has been so pathetically low.

There are many routes that do not really exist at most times of the day, leaving people skeptical that they’ll be able to get to where they need to be, if they depend on Regina Transit as their primary mode of transportation. If you cross off every route on the map that doesn’t exist at 6:30pm any day of the week, you’ll get a better picture of what the transit map actually looks like. Or try going somewhere at 3:00pm. It’s a sad joke. No offense intended; it is what it is given the meager budget provided. Except it doesn’t have to be that way, and Regina should stop aiming for what it thinks it can afford on a starvation budget, instead of for what our city needs to grow and thrive.

We’re creating a bus system full of 1-way trips. It’s a disaster, along the same line of thinking as the failed Sunday-service compromise that’s being scrapped this Summer.


About John Klein

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