While speaking with city planners and engineers last month in Saskatoon, I learned that Saskatchewan is the world’s best carbon polluter, per capita. Since it’s already 2014, a generation after the Kyoto agreement attempted to cut carbon pollution, I strongly feel it’s time to adjust priorities in Regina to better reflect what is happening to our economy and our environment.
It was with disappointment I read the “Citizen Budget” page and no mention of climate change was made. I’d prefer the situation where this would be because every decision made would hinge upon this critical issue, but given Regina’s track record, I’d have to assume it’s because our policy makers don’t read the news on the front page of the western world’s top newspaper The Guardian. “Climate change is here now and it could lead to global conflict”.
I dare say that more important to Quality of Life than perfectly smooth roads, is a city untouched by world war fueled by our relentless misuse of fossil fuels. The Guardian’s journalist suggests Regina’s leaders would be “very unwise” to ignore this global problem by refusing to address it in a local context.
Back to the Citizen Budget, I must admit I was confused by the apparently contradictory ideas that we could “pay more to support growth”, while in past years this Council has kept taxes [too] low in order to support growth.
Leaving that first confusing question aside, the next four questions labeled “Quality of Life” were entirely how much we intend for the public purse to subsidize the auto industry.
The following question, pertaining to Transit’s budget, gives an option to further slash, or greatly invest in additional buses and transit infrastructure that Regina is lacking, like Winter-suitable shelters.
On http://regina.citizenbudget.com/ the website says:
“The City of Regina will meet its goal to convert its entire transit fleet two years ahead of schedule with the arrival of 15 new low-floor buses in 2014.”
Is Regina getting more buses which can carry more people, or just replacing high floor buses that are not wheelchair accessible?
I’ve read the Mayor said we’re getting new buses this year, but that’s a part of the City attempting to avoid a Human Rights lawsuit, not part of a desire amongst this Council to improve service levels for all Transit users?
Last year I asked Council to increase taxes by 0.1% to better fund the Transit system which had just experienced a 9% increase in use. This year I’m asking for a 0.25% increase, to make up for the .1% not implemented last year, and because who is going to notice 0.25% when Council’s target is 70 times higher than the rejected increase proposal made last year?
By failing to invest in more buses, people are left waiting in the cold in front of some retailers and restauranteurs who don’t value the foot traffic near their shops. Let’s ignore the unpleasant human-element of directing people to check their smartphones in -30 weather to see if their next bus is coming, since that’s the status-quo. The time people are waiting, presumably can be translated into money. If thirty people are waiting an extra ten minutes each, that’s 5 work hours wasted. Five work hours, at the approximate amount a City Councillor makes [$15.40], is $77. After a year, that’s roughly $27,000 in lost productivity, for one bus load of people waiting an extra ten minutes a day.
To have a bus available for those people waiting will practically pay for a person working at minimum wage to be driving their bus.
The UofR is again serious about implementing a Universal Bus Pass. It’s wildly popular in Saskatoon, where it increased ridership by 40% amongst the student population. Last year the Free Transit Friday promotion increased ridership by about 40% across all demographics, and overloaded the buses downtown. Because many buses don’t come for 30 or 60 minutes after a bus that has to drive by because it’s filled to capacity, this is a major annoyance to riders. What I hope you take away from this information is that you can either make fares free to get a 40% increase in ridership, or target a demographic like children under 18 who could be riding the city buses now for free in order to fill them and improve the efficiency of the transit system.
You might also wish to note that failing to purchase more buses now, in preparation of the University of Regina Student’s Union approving the U-Pass, will result in an embarrassment for the City, as it will strand dozens or hundreds of riders at bus stops every day as some bus routes will be over their capacity. You could save the City millions of dollars in the short term by directing Regina Transit to cease negotiations with the University of Regina Student’s Union, so there will be less demand for new buses to be purchased, while continuing to focus on a single-occupant vehicle method of helping students get to and from school via overcrowded parking lots and streets.
Under “Quality Services”, the sliding scale goes to $0, which I assume means privatization, or the formation of community co-operatives to manage the services which people select $0. I think a $0 waste collection system is worth exploring, where people will pay a private company or a co-operative to haul away waste, and the City can maintain its new recycling operations.
Regina is losing affordability.