Support Our Crown Corporations

For City Council on Monday:

Your Worship,

I’m here to speak in support of Saskatchewan’s Crown Corporations. I’m originally from a small town that would not have had electrical grid service, nor widespread telephone service when it did if not for the creation of Crown corporations. SaskPower, SGI, STC, and SaskTel are among the very best service providers in Canada to this day, often offering rates far below their national competitors’ rates.

While I was on the advisory board for SaskTel’s Community Net high speed Internet service to schools and libraries, we led the world in broadband access across our vast province. Crowns are capable of delivering world-leading services, and ultimately that’s what City government is here for, not to make a profit, but to deliver needed services that individuals are not well suited to provide in a competitive economy.

It’s still possible for Regina, Saskatoon, and other municipalities to save STC by taking it over, since we run Transportation services with larger budgets than the “loss” STC incurs each year to offer transportation service to Regina and the rest of the province. If we focus on routes admittedly “profitable” by the Provincial government, we can maintain service levels to some destinations, and add a revenue stream for the City of Regina. Try to find another delegation that offers a revenue stream that fits with one of the City’s core-services already in existence.

Other parts of Canada have inter-regional transportation services, like Go Transit, and Via Rail. The Provincial Government has failed in its duty to provide multi-modal transportation options to its citizens and visitors, so the City should make its best effort to fill in that gap as it does with ParaTransit service. I must bring up the Province is paying for shuttle buses to the city’s hospitals to reduce parking problems, rather than fund Regina Transit sufficiently to operate shuttles that are available for patients and regular Transit users as well. There are smarter ways of delivering Transit services, but standing by and letting STC be scrapped is not one of those smart choices.

Speaking of smart choices regarding Transit, I’d like to see fares for children be reduced to $0. This would encourage families to use the bus over private automobile choices.

#YQRcc Budget Then, and Now

As part of the 2017 budget, 13 transit buses will be replaced, along with six paratransit buses, costing $8.3 million this year. An additional $2.9 million will be spent on bus shelters to upgrade with new concrete pads and accessibility enhancements, as well as purchase more modern bus shelter for the city. Regina Transit will upgrade the technology, including dispatch systems, this year as well.

That was in January.

This is in April. Shifts Happen.

Last year the City promised U of R students that they’d see increased bus service. Now, service is being cut back. Should URSU withhold payment to the City for their broken promise?

Save STC – SaskParty Ending Rural Transportation System

In a shocking turn of events, it’s been left to the NDP to defend the interests of people in rural Saskatchewan. This is something that would not have been predicted ten years ago, when the NDP name was mud outside of Regina and Saskatoon for having closed hospitals and schools in many small communities. Now, the SaskParty government is selling off STC’s assets to private companies, destroying a critical transportation infrastructure that has been in place for 70 years.

About 200 people gathered over lunch hour in Regina at the new STC Bus terminal, to tell the government to stop the closure. Guest speakers include City Councillor Andrew Stevens. Andrew was on the Morning Edition to explain the ridiculous cuts to the Cities.

A Notable Walk to the #YQR Regina Airport

Regina is lucky to have an International Airport located within its city limits. Cab rides to downtown from stepping off the plane cost no more than about $15C, compared to the $50 seen in major centres around the continent. What we are unlucky to have, is a complacent City Hall with no plan to provide active transportation options to the airport in the immediate future. The Airport, to its credit, has built a walkway to the edge of its property, but the City refuses to even budget to close the sidewalk gap. There is still no $3.25 Regina Transit bus to the airport or businesses west of Lewvan Dr. There’s no Uber or Lyft in sight.

How bad is it right now to take the bus then walk? It was +2 to +6C on Friday. Take a look, as I step off the #9 bus* (not the closest stop, but the most convenient for me to step onto on this particular day) at Elphinstone St. and Regina Ave. I was pulling two small rolling suitcases and a backpack, for additional hilarity and amusement.

*Do not try this at home, I’m a professional puddle jumper. 😉

There was one person walking the other direction, while I was leaving the bridge and entering the pathway.

4 New Councillors Could Shift The Balance

I’m more optimistic today than I was yesterday about the new Council. Although a majority 6 Councillors were returned, with 4 new faces it’s possible that some of the incumbents could be convinced to change their votes on a number of issues.

Lori Bresciani is new in Ward 4. I’m concerned about her current view on downtown parking.

If we want to people to come downtown Parking has to available and convenient.  I do not believe we have adequate parking and we need to provide more parking options for residents.

Contrast her view with Joel’s below. I hope her perspective will change with experience.

Jason Mancinelli, a highly rated auto mechanic, is new in Ward 9. I couldn’t find his campaign page. He appears to want action on environmental issues. If he makes his first impact on changing the culture of transit by turning down his Council parking pass, and insist upon a Transit pass instead, that will be great.

Andrew Stevens in Ward 3 wants a bus route to the airport, first thing. That’s long overdue, and low hanging fruit. He also wants a housing first strategy that works, like Medicine Hat has. That’s great! He wants to “work towards water conservation and stewardship.” Excellent! He’ll focus on implementing the Transportation Master Plan, and Official Community Plan.

Fixing our infrastructure: The current Council has prioritized sprawl at the expense of maintaining and improving our existing infrastructure. Instead, we need to develop a strategy for improving public transit, bike infrastructure and recreation facilities, while fully implementing the Official Community Plan and Neighbourhood Plans.

When it comes to infrastructure, we need to talk about dedicated bike lanes and a better public transit systems. Cars are expensive and damaging to our health. We need to change, and that’s why I’d look to recommendations in our Transportation Master Plan for guidance.

Joel Murray in Ward 6 seems to understand that parking in downtown cannot be solved by adding more car parking. He gets bonus points for knowing about car sharing.

If we can invest more into options other than a private car (bike lanes, car sharing, and transit) we can keep rates low and have more parking available.

Protecting out environment is paramount. As a community we need to work together on diverting more from our landfill, expanding transit, increasing bike lanes, shopping local, and working from home if possible.

Is approval of the Blue Dot motion forthcoming from this changed Council? Time will tell.

Saskatoon City Planner on Environment etc.

Here are the key quotes, as I see them, which also directly apply to Regina and its thinking.

It can be awkward, going from a small city to a big city. And by the time we get done with the 30-year plans, we’re going to be a big city. We’re going to be half a million people. So all of the things we’ve done for the last 100 years has all been manageable in a small city way, like our transit system, like the way we plan neighbourhoods, like how we design our road system. And how we relate to the region had all been pretty much stable for the last 60 years or so.

Those things are all changing and we can’t ignore it. They’re just coming at us. We will have to deal with it. …

Transit — that’s another one. It’s a big one. We have a small city transit system. It has to evolve or it’s just going to fail. It’s starting to fail already. When you have buses congested in traffic, there’s no way anyone can keep a schedule. If you can’t keep a schedule, nobody’s going to use it. Four per cent of the population. It might go down from there. Who knows? But why would you use transit?

Under the radar for a while, but everything eventually percolates to the top: Homelessness. Homeless counts are going up. They’re not going down. How that’s being addressed is kind of behind the scenes here.

…Although roads will continue to be built, we can’t rely on the automobile as much as we are — 1.1 drivers per car is our average. So that’s one person in a car driving all over the place.

…You see a lot of cars driving in and out, so we’re using our cars an awful lot. Maybe we’ve made it too convenient to do that and I think that’s true because we’ve been able to, but you can’t continue that.

I think environmentally, we need to pull up our socks a little bit. We’re lagging behind in some respects. We just brought in recycling in the last five years. So we’re not exactly leading in any great way.

…We have an awful lot of sunshine here and I don’t know why solar hasn’t taken off. While not being too unkind to our Saskatoon Light & Power folks — they do a wonderful job — but that should be an energy company. Maybe it’s time to cut the tie with SaskPower and maybe generate, create energy and sell it.