Presentation to the Standing Policy Committee on Transportation, February 1, 2021

Re: Process for Introducing or Expanding Transit within New and Developing Neighbourhoods

Greetings and thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Robert Clipperton and I address you as the spokesperson for Bus Riders of Saskatoon.

Bus Riders would like to communicate our support for the ideas presented in this document and would like to commend the writer, Mr. Shrigley, for the clarity with which it is written.
It has been said that Saskatoon’s transit system was designed to give all parts of the City equally mediocre service and we are pleased to see policy development that will move Transit forward. Most of you will have heard comments from the public at your ward meetings where people complain that they never see more than two people on the bus running through their neighbourhood.

The processes proposed in this report will allow for the flexibility needed to adjust service both up and down. Many of you were in office in about 2016 when the City brought in Jarrett Walker to address Council on modern transit systems. He cautioned that any improvements will require change and that every change will bring complaints. He said something to the effect that route improvements that benefit ten people are likely to ‘ruin one person’s life’. That may be hyperbole, but we need to be prepared to hear from a few understandably disappointed people as we improve the system. Neighbourhoods differ and it makes no sense to offer as intensive service to a neighbourhood such as The Willows for example as is offered to say Fairhaven. To quote Jarrett Walker: “No agency should pretend to be meeting both coverage and ridership goals with the same dollar.”

We are pleased to see direction in this document which recommends revised processes whereby service levels will be data driven. Existing and potential ridership levels are recognized and there is an articulated path to reduce service to an area where ridership persistently remains low. It takes into account the high density corridor and infill strategies as outlined in the Growth Plan and the implementation of the eagerly awaited Bus Rapid Transit service.

When the 2019 budget was finalized Bus Riders was surprised to see a proposal to add $350,000 to the Transit budget to expand service into Rosewood. There had been little discussion of this request at Council, the item appeared right at the end of the budget discussions as a separate little add-on and was not supported by the usual report from administration. It was approved with little to no discussion. Bus Riders was dismayed.

If there was an extra $350,000 to spend on improved Transit in Saskatoon, could there not have been consideration of enhancements which would have impacted more people? Enhancements such as expanded service hours on week-ends – especially Sunday mornings when some people have real trouble getting to work, or late night hours on certain routes for those exiting entertainment venues downtown on Friday and Saturday nights, or making child and high school student fares affordable? We would like to see the preparation of a costed list of service enhancements so Council can choose between beneficial options rather than approving expansion into neighbourhoods simply because they are there.

The only thing we would take issue with in the report is that it says that there have been no “environmental implications identified.” Of course there are environmental implications. Any measure which boosts transit ridership and which results in fewer vehicles on the road helps Saskatoon reach the targets laid out in the city’s Low Emissions Community Plan.

Thank you for your time today.

Transit’s proposal and the Councillors insightful discussion on the topic is available here.