Bus Rapid Transit

Bus Rapid Transit

By Curt McCoshen

 

One of the City’s initiatives for transit in the near future is “rapid transit”.  When I first heard the term, I admit that the first thing I thought of was what Edmonton has: a kind of tracked, above-ground series of cars that look as much like subway cars as anything else.  That’s not what BRT looks like.  It’s simply a system where buses are given more priority than they are now: they have dedicated lanes to prevent them being held up by congested traffic; traffic lights are set up to allow the buses to proceed with fewer slow downs so that passengers cover the same amount of distance in fewer minutes.

This causes some real concerns for many motorists.  Over the last number of months, for instance, several businesses on Broadway have wondered how on earth a dedicated bus lane could be feasible when there are only two lanes each way in the first place.  What if I’m trying to park in the only lane for regular traffic and you’re behind me?  How do you get by me if the only other lane is a bus lane?  Do you just have to sit there and wait for me?  City officials, faced with that question, cannot tell you that you can go around by using the bus lane for a moment, but that’s the reality of what you’d do: you’d zip around the parking car and then go back into the regular lane.

Another concern is the “rapid” part of the BRT, with some alarmists wondering how on earth their neighbourhood will survive buses thundering down roads that may contain children.  The answer to that, again, is pretty simple: the speed of the buses doesn’t change – they don’t charge down our streets any faster than they do now.  They also don’t stop for lights as long; they don’t have to pick through traffic; the flow is smoother: the trip is faster without the bus ever going faster than it does now.

We’re often hesitant to change.  We worry if the system will be worse, if the experts who run our cities are really experts at all.  Once we’ve found a way to handle our daily commute, we don’t want to redo it.  If I’m stuck in traffic for twenty minutes, I may hate it, but at least I know that I can handle it; after all, I’ve been stuck in traffic every day for the last several years, so I’m used to it.  The whole idea of trying new ideas is to try and try again to make our lives more manageable.  BRT is one more weapon to allow not only you and me, but our neighbours, a way to go about our lives.

 

Presentation to Council – Budget 2019

The following is the written text of the presentation Bus Riders of Saskatoon gave to Saskatoon City Council during the deliberations for Budget 2019 (special thanks to Robert Clipperton):

 

Bus Riders of Saskatoon – 2019 Budget Reaction

Over the past few years Saskatoon Transit has done an admirable job in implementing Frequent Transit Corridors (FTCs) along 8th Street, 22nd Street and College/Attridge Drive without increases in the annual operating budget to do so. A purpose of these FTCs was to pilot the concept of Bus Rapid Transit, running buses at roughly 10-minute intervals, while simultaneously contending with unpredictable traffic congestion and train delays.   The FTCs have been a resounding success and resulted in increased ridership which bodes well for the success of BRT.  In order to implement these FTCs without an increase in the operating budget however, there have been some negative impacts on other services.

BRT and the redesign of the conventional network are still several years in the future.  Meanwhile Saskatoon Transit is forced to keep operating a less than ideal hybrid system while simultaneously building the new system. We believe that this double duty is creating untenable stress in the transit system which will only be alleviated by an injection of operating dollars.

This fall there is an unusual number of reports of routes where buses run chronically late, where buses are unacceptably crowded, where passengers are left standing at the bus stop because buses are full, and where service hours don’t meet people’s needs.  In the past, most of these reports have peaked in September and then tapered off in time, but this year, with the increase in ridership, they continue on.

Hardships are evident.  A few examples:

From Ward One:  “Holy cow.  I am so sick of the transit system. My bus was late making me miss my transfer at the university by literally 15 seconds (drove away as I stepped off the bus)… 15 seconds now makes me an hour behind.”

From Ward Six: “Late buses affect me about once a month with getting to work late. I’m worried that I’m looked at as unreliable to my boss and co-workers.”
From Ward One: The bus from my area combined with the transfer issues means that I can leave home at the same time every day and arrive at work in 14 minutes (record so far) or 63 minutes (record so far). Standing at the same bus stop. Same time. Same route. Same transfer. Same job site. How does one schedule for that?”

From Ward Nine: Last month, I cancelled my bus pass that I was fortunate to have my work subsidize for me and made alternative arrangements. It just wasn’t reliable as a source of transportation.”

From Ward Ten:  “I can’t speak to my experience in the past as this is the first time I have taken the bus in close to 20 years but this morning I was waiting for a 7:30 bus at Lowe and Atton but the bus drove by me and 5 people. … . The App said the next bus was 24 minutes away. 1 boy stayed, 3 walked away and I texted my husband who got me and drove me to work.  I can’t rely on the bus to get me to work unless I start going in an hour early every day which is not reasonable.”

From Ward One: “Well today was an extra terrible experience.  Firstly the bus was 20 minutes late first thing this morning so I was 20 minutes late for work.  Then after work I was out waiting at 4:15 on Airport Drive for the bus.  The next bus came at 5:40 ”

Ward Seven “Twice, when trying to get on the #17 Stonebridge, I was told there was no room…. For a pregnant woman in winter, no less.  One who has just left the hospital.  Once I had my son with me, in his stroller, and I flat out refused to wait out in the cold for the next bus.  I literally had to demand they make room.”

From Ward 2: “My kids have had to sit on dirty floors when the bus is full because no one offers a seat for them. They can’t hold onto anything because they are too small and risk getting hurt when the driver steps on the brakes.”

Ward Seven:  “I had to pull my son from the gymnastics class he’s been taking for years because they changed the route (used to be #4)  that went by the gym and the new route (now #11) is consistently extremely late – leaving us no way to get to/from on-time. “

FTCs have been a wonderful innovation to our system which is reflected in increased ridership.  We don’t want to lose new riders in this interim period just when we are at the point of getting a great new transit system.  Transit needs an increase in their operating budget so that there is the flexibility to address these growing pains as they become evident.

I end with a final quote from a transit user:

“I think it is great to see increased riders! Now the City should be working to keep the service successful.”

That’s what Bus Riders of Saskatoon think too.

 

Undercounting Transit Dependency

Far too often when discussing or debating issues involving public transit our elected officials, municipal administration, and the media  quote public transit ridership numbers from the census, claiming that “only 4% of people use public transit”. As I have argued before, this under counts transit usage and additionally is likely to dramatically under count public transit dependency.

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Bus Riders Twitter News!

This joint post comes to you from Brian Hoessler and Shannon McAvoy of Better Transit YXE and Stephan Simon of Bus Riders of Saskatoon

 

When we (Shannon McAvoy and Brian Hoessler) started Better Transit YXE back in November 2014, we always knew it would be a short-term initiative. At that point in time, with the transit lockout having ended less than a month prior, we wanted to help shift the conversation to what transit in Saskatoon could look like. We have both seen transit work in other cities and felt the need to contribute in some small way to improving the system we have today.

 

With Shannon completing a volunteer placement with Brian’s consulting firm, and a mutual interest in the topic, it was a perfect opportunity to try things out, like handing out candy canes to transit riders and drivers, sharing stories online, and even presenting to an urban planning class at U of S. The greatest impact came from building connections with a diverse range of people and organizations interested in transit, including city staff, the growth planning team, cyclists, politicians, researchers, advocates, and ordinary transit riders. These relationships led to Ten Days for Transit, an initiative to encourage people to take the bus and engage in conversations about how the system could improve.

 

A natural partnership through the lifespan of Better Transit YXE was with Bus Riders of Saskatoon. Meeting for the first time in September 2014, Bus Riders has contributed to providing a space for riders to voice both concerns and hopes for Saskatoon Transit, including through dialogue with city officials. Given its mission and good work to date, handing the torch to Bus Riders of Saskatoon is the natural path for us to take.

 

So, it is with great pleasure and optimism that Better Transit YXE’s Twitter handle, @BtrTransitYXE will become the Twitter voice of Bus Riders of Saskatoon. Building on the work our organizations have accomplished, both separately and cooperatively, we will strive to build a powerful voice for public transit advocacy in Saskatoon. We also invite Bus Riders of Saskatoon to make use of Better Transit YXE, perhaps to continue asking “what if” questions and share ideas from across Canada and around the world. Although the two of us won’t be able to post regularly, we may occasionally provide guest content on Bus Riders of Saskatoon.

 

Although this is our stop with Better Transit YXE, it’s not the end of the line for this initiative – keep watching for the next bus and hope to see you on board!

 

Transit Fare Increase

Disappointing news from the December 14, 2015, Saskatoon City Council meeting. Despite a decline in ridership, Council passed an increase to transit fares, with only Councillors Pat Lorje and Zach Jefferies voting against the motion. Sadly virtually every fare category will see an increase. These increases will fly in the face Council’s usual objective of keeping fare increases in line with the City’s Municipal Price Index (MPI) of 2.91%. The chart below shows the percent increase in rate fares, as well as the expected increase in 2016 revenue from each category’s increase.

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Free Transit on Election Day

Free Transit

The City of Saskatoon will be providing FREE TRANSIT on election day (Monday, October 19, 2015).

Everyone will be able to hop on the bus no questions asked on Monday, October 19, 2015. This is exciting news for Saskatonians and will hopefully allow the opportunity for many to get to polling stations.

 

When to Vote

Monday October 19th. Polls are open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Federal law requires anyone who is eligible to vote must have three consecutive hours to cast their vote on election day. If your hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours to vote, your employer must give you time off. Sadly this does not necessarily mean three hours off of work! Only that employers must ensure that you have three hours of time when polls are open, with no loss of pay. Find out more about time off for voting from Elections Canada.

 

Where to Vote

Not sure where your polling station is? Check out Elections Canada and enter your postal code in the voter information tab and hit “go”.

 

election2

 

You will then get a page that tells you what your electoral district is. On the right hand side click the link in the frequently asked questions labeled “where do I vote?”. After entering your street, city, and province, hit “search” and then you can see a map and details of your poling station with information on accessibility.

 

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Getting There

How do I get to my polling station? Here are a few ways to plan your trip:

1. Use Google Maps to plan your route;

2. Use TransitApp  to plan your route;

3. Saskatoon Transit’s real-time web application to check the arrival of your bus. Watch this video for more information on how to use this feature; and

4. Call Saskatoon Transit’s customer service line at 306-975-3100.

 

Don’t Forget Your Identification

Not sure what ID to bring? No worries, go here to see a list of acceptable ID. You DO NOT need a photo ID to vote. If you do not have a photo ID, you can show two pieces of ID where one contains your current address, including, but not limited to, your health card, birth certificate, social insurance number card, and many others. If you do not have an ID with your current address, you can take an oath, show two pieces of ID and have someone who is registered in the same polling division attest for you (swear they know you and your current address). If you have someone attest for you, keep in mind they can only attest for one person.

 

You Matter

And to those who don’t think their one vote matters? In the last Federal election in 2011, the riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming in Ontario had 225 spoiled or rejected ballots and the winner was decided by a margin of 18 votes. As recently as this spring, the Calgary-Glenmore riding in the Alberta Provincial election was decided by six (yes, 6) votes.

Get out and vote!  Apathy is the enemy of Democracy.