Reasons to Take the Bus!

Today I want to talk about why taking the bus is actually better than taking your car to many places in the city. I’m going to begin with a statistic that I found hard to believe: the cost of owning a vehicle. Based on a simple internet search, the average automobile costs between $700 and $800 a month. A month. That’s the direct cost to the person and it’s not the cost of driving a luxury car – it’s the average. In addition, whether it’s highways pounded by semi trucks (remember when rail accounted for more shipping, and every third vehicle you met in the countryside wasn’t a giant semi?) or it’s the city streets with their never-ending torrent of vehicles, road maintenance and road expansion costs every one of us every year. These are just collective financial costs, with no mention of land lost to urban sprawl as our cities expand and of the pollution that accrues from so many cars, many of them carrying only one person because we treasure our independence and flexibility so much.

And that’s before we even get into the many things that don’t cost money but that drive us crazy about being our own chauffeurs.

We constantly hear about how the infrastructure isn’t keeping up with the need for more space for our demanding vehicles. Driving at certain times of the day in almost any city is easily slower than riding a bike, but for me, it’s the sheer aggravation of the incessant tiny decisions; creeping forward in traffic so that someone doesn’t cut me off or edge into my lane; not timing the lights correctly, so that I’m constantly starting and stopping; that person who isn’t aggressive enough, or who is too aggressive; the people who don’t go fast enough or who are right behind me because I’m not going fast enough. And this, of course, doesn’t mention the finger waving, fist shaking people who share our city. I don’t have to worry about any of that when I’m on the bus.

I’m not really a public places sort of person, but I find that the bus engine actually makes enough noise that I’m insulated from most of the other passengers. I live on the edge of the city, so I like to read while I sit, but I don’t mind standing; it just doesn’t matter. The main thing is this: I’m much more relaxed on the bus than I am driving my car.

There are other advantages as well, although they don’t influence me as much. I hate driving uptown, so if I go, I take the bus or my bike. Even though there seems to be enough parking, I’m always tethered to wherever I’ve parked, and while I might start near the car, I usually want to do more than one chore. After I’ve walked some distance, I’d really rather pick up a ride at the nearest bus stop than walk back and forth to my car. The alternative is that I get a ticket, and like most people, I find that that kind of ruins the entire trip.

I haven’t been in a traffic accident in awhile, but that’s a non-issue on a bus. Meanwhile, in the last year or so, I’ve seen  five accidents actually happen, or I’ve seen the immediate aftermath.

Parking the tens of thousands of cars in any city is a logistical nightmare, and parking my own isn’t a problem when I take the bus. When I took a class at the university, for instance, there was no parking, so I found space south of fourteenth street, and walked the twenty minutes from there. In all, it never took me less than a half hour to drive and walk to class. A bus takes me almost exactly the amount of time.

Transit avoids many inconveniences of owning a car in Saskatoon. I realize that it takes more time, but since I’ve retired, I have more of that, and I can plan my trips much more easily, especially in the summer. In the winter, since I hate to be cold, I dress so that I don’t suffer, and I haven’t found waiting at a bus stop to be all that bad. For me, the bus is relaxing and mass transit spares the environment. And if I’m riding a bus, I’m out of your way. It also allows me to avoid the time and annoyance of parking; although I have to walk two blocks to my bus stop, getting on the bus at my destination is almost always closer and more convenient. There are drawbacks to taking mass transit anywhere, but there are also benefits. I still need to drive sometimes, but if I’m honest, I’d far rather avoid it, and the bus is the best way for me to do that.

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.

Read More

Public Transit Planner Jarrett Walker

Jarrett Walker presents Abundant Access: Public Transit as an Instrument of Freedom

 

What is the best bus network possible for our beautiful city? You might have considered it, or you might have heard what others have proposed, from our mayor to the person sitting next to you on the bus.

Jarrett Walker has considered and redesigned numerous public transit systems from all over the world, and he will be in Saskatoon this Saturday, March 12 at 7:30 pm at the Broadway Theatre to talk about his experiences. There will also be a reception after the event.

If you’re able to make it to the event, let us know what you think on our Facebook page, or at our next meeting.

Great Places-Jarrett Walker-March 12

8th Street Transit Service Plans

Saskatoon Transit Public Engagement Opportunity-8th Street Transit Service Plans

 

Is it possible that Saskatoon Transit will make strides forward? Or perhaps you don’t agree with the new 8th street transit service plans. To get more information about the new plans for routes along 8th Street, attend Saskatoon Transit’s Engagement Opportunity on March 16th, 4 pm, at TCU Place. If you can’t make it, fill out the survey between March 11th to 25th.

Also, feel free to share your comments on our Facebook page, or attend our next meeting.

 

8th street transit service plans

 

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!