Increase Transit Investment in Regina

In the recently passed report on Transit in Regina, the council committee “recommend that Council consider further enhancements to conventional transit routing in the 2014 budget (requires 2014 budget increase).”

At the Community and Protective Services Committee meeting on April 10, 2013, Councillor Young wondered if there may be some way for the Summer construction season to be used as an opportunity to convince employers in the Downtown area to encourage their employees to use Regina Transit and reduce parking and traffic congestion. This is a serious possibility. The Regina Transit Employer Pass could be heavily promoted, or even adapted after the Boulder, Colorado Eco-Pass http://www.bouldercounty.org/roads/transit/pages/ecopass.aspx

Additional incentives for employers who buy their employees a pass for the year (or maybe just this Summer) could improve traffic and parking downtown, while increasing Regina Transit revenue immediately so additional buses could more easily be purchased sooner rather than later. Employers with parking spaces that are not needed would realize additional income from people outside of their company, as they rent them out to those who choose to drive.

What role did public transit play in Boulder, in 1990? “Essentially a social service for people who had no other choice.” -Will Toor, former mayor of Boulder. By 2008, it was estimated that more than 25% of people from the area rode the bus. That’s more than six times, per capita, the number of people riding the bus in Regina today. Clearly we have a long way to go to catch up with only 4%. If Reginans saw more prominent people using public transit, that would help to dispel the social stigma created here that the bus is not intended for everyone to be able to use it. Councillors Young and Fraser recently rode ParaTransit in order to gain experience, and I applaud that effort.

“What would make you want to ride the bus?” That’s the question Boulder politicians asked people in order to learn what the system had to look like, and they made that happen, rather than using a top-down imposition of service onto people. In Regina many people I know don’t feel the bus system they would want to use will ever be available here. I’m not so pessimistic.

Design Regina, and the Transportation Master Plan have given transit users and other citizens a chance to tell the City want they would like to see in order to create the ideal bus service. It falls on Council’s shoulders to find ways to implement those ideas this decade, preferably during this term in office so they’ll have vast improvement to point to when potential political challengers ask just what they’ve done to make Regina a more liveable and greener city.

Comments I had made to me following the CPS Committee meeting included these:

“Not investing in transit due to low ridership is a self-fulfilling prophecy.” – Chad (Not the Chad you’re all thinking of.)

“You’ve got to spend money to make money.” – Naomi

Could the “city talk with the province about getting more staff on @YQRTransit?” – Luke

“1) Eliminate parking requirements [for new building construction] and expand parking metering; use the [meter] revenue to fix sidewalks and otherwise beautify downtown. ; 2) If public employees receive free parking (which they almost certainly do), make them pay; 3) Get an express bus from the University, up Albert, all the way North (or possibly to the [Galaxy] movie theatre). The current focus is backwards, putting more emphasis on feeder routes than on major transit routes. Arms aren’t much good without a spine.” – Steve

john on full bus

And in response to a photo of me on a completely full bus, where I asked rhetorically if Regina needed to put more money into Transit, Mervin said, “The proof is looking right at them.”

People are asking you to spend their tax money on improving transit service. You’re unlikely to hear from any delegation or other engaged citizens that they’d rather you not build a world-class public transit service here. You have everything to gain by focusing a little on this issue. And if you do hear from anyone who is against better transit, beware the costs and consequences that flow from their position which includes:

  • Climate Change. Aside from nuclear war, this is among the most grave threats to civilization known to human kind, and predicted to vastly change the geopolitical landscape this century, as well as, of course, the average weather for Regina and the world. http://www.regina.ca/residents/environment/climate-change/climate-change-regina/
  • Traffic jams. Each bus removes multiple cars from the road.
  • Parking congestion. Parkades can be built at an approximate cost of $33,000/stall. Parkades will not solve the air pollution problem that cars present us with. Parkades are also regarded as ugly buildings, by most people I know anyway.
  • Reduced air quality. Motor vehicles produce air pollution that create smog and shorten lives.
  • Reduced economic opportunity. Many young professionals and ‘Millenials’ choose to live where they can live a complete life without owning a car. Having an unsuccessful transit system in an unwalkable city will cause some people to choose to live where they have that service provided.

The City of Regina officially recognizes the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in many of its present, and long-standing policies.

http://www.regina.ca/residents/environment/climate-change/climate-change-regina/

My hope is that more effort will be expended now that over two decades have been used up finding only minor efficiencies and reductions in greenhouse gas production. It’s time to get real about the danger our civilization is facing, and stop pushing the problem onto the next generation. They will have a harder time bringing extinct life back than we face by not causing extinctions in the first place. An ounce of prevention is required in very short order now. The City’s half-measures are not the problem, it’s failing to apply the other urgently needed half of the solutions already partly here.

http://www.regina.ca/residents/environment/climate-change/reducing-emissions-city/

Our City website fails to mention Transit as an important factor in determining how much energy is consumed in our city. The City of Saskatoon suggests citizens there consider using Transit to reduce their environmental impact, and thank the City of Regina for some of the information contained on that webpage.

http://www.saskatoon.ca/DEPARTMENTS/Utility%20Services/Environmental%20Services/climatechange/Pages/default.aspx

“For the average person, vehicles are one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Think about car pooling to work, starting a walking school bus for your kids, taking a City bus on your errand or walking to the local grocery store.”

Berry Vrbanovic, President of FCM describes Transit this way:

Public transit isn’t a luxury; it is the key to a strong economy.

The following are requests for service improvements from nearly the number of people who provided comments to the Regina Transit survey earlier this year. That survey was the basis upon the changes recommended by the committee earlier this month. It is my hope that the petition’s respondents will encourage Council to act more boldly in the much needed directions outlined here:

-More frequent stop times after 9PM for routes serving major streets.

-Sundays and Holidays use the Saturday routes and schedule.

-Express routes on major roads including but not limited to Albert St., Broad St., Victoria Ave. & E., Dewdney Ave., and Rochdale Blvd. Where possible, bus-only lanes will be created, and strictly enforced to reduce Transit delays. (As an aside, this fits with the Mayor’s recent interest in investigating Snow Routes.)

cars parking in bus lane during rush hour

-Enough Para-Transit resources made available to reduce by half or more, the 2011 monthly average number of stranded users requesting service, by the end of 2013.

-Bus or Shuttle service to the Regina #YQR Airport.

My petition identified five areas of improvement. The last point mentioned was to create a bus to the airport. Since there is no sidewalk or bike lane connecting the rest of the city with the airport, a bus is urgently needed for public safety and convenience. Also, Regina’s tourism industry and national reputation will improve if we don’t force people newly arrived to our city to pay for a cab ride or require friends or family to pick them up if they are not renting a car.

– Day passes could be bought on the buses. The transfer printers are capable of doing this. This method doesn’t require a tourist or other user to find and attend the Transit office when it is open, then buy the pass after already travelling specifically to get a pass for travel.

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REFERENCES:

-A short video that explains how Boulder rejuvenated their transit system in the early 1990s.
http://www.streetfilms.org/hop-skip-and-jump-aboard-a-boulder-bus

-ParaTransit denied 15,000 ride requests in 2012.
http://www.leaderpost.com/Paratransit+funding+increase+leaves+Regina+behind/8162274/story.html

-Climate Change emissions warning from IEA.
http://www.leaderpost.com/business/issues+warning+emissions+warming/8258337/story.html

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About John Klein

My full time blog is at AbandonedStuff.com My personal site devoted to my Regina politics work is at JohnKlein.ca