(Below is the statement I made at yesterday’s Regional budget input meeting. Please call and write your regional councillors expressing your support for these initiatives. Their contact information is at the following link: http://bit.ly/hvkN5t)
Hi, I’m Tim Mollison, I live in Kitchener, and I’m here to represent the The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group, or TriTAG. TriTAG was founded in May 2009 with the idea that people should be able to walk, cycle, and take transit to everywhere they need to go, with dignity. These modes should be accessible to as many people as possible, and made as useful as possible, because transit and active transportation are better for the environment, public health, and the form of our cities.
I’m here this evening to speak about the Regional Transportation Master Plan.
The $4.05 million you’ve been asked for in this budget [linked PDF here] is for service expansions that address overcrowding issues on the system. We appreciate your graciously asking staff to cost out some of the additional issues our members consider to be improvements beyond fixing overcrowding. Many of the items you have received back [page 19ff of this linked PDF] are the kind of “nice to have” thing you’d expect from a group like TriTAG. We appreciate the costing of the Coronation Express. We look forward to Cambridge seeing additional express bus service. We appreciate the time staff have taken to provide additional details about various aspects of the proposed relief measures. We applaud staff and council for seeking efficiencies in stop spacing.
Today, we only ask you add one item of significant cost – overnight service on the iXpress.
For half of the cost of introducing all-night service on routes 7 through Kitchener-Waterloo and 52 through Cambridge, you could provide an efficient all-night transit link from one end of the Region to the other. This would cement the iXpress as the predominant transit route for the region, building a stronger ridership foundation for Rapid Transit, should you choose to build it. People never ride the last bus of the evening not because they don’t need it, but because they want to guarantee that they won’t be stranded overnight. Adding overnight iXpress service would provide trust in the system while maintaining reasonable cost. The City of Ottawa implemented a similar service a couple of years ago and they did it a similar way by only serving one express route – people use local taxicabs or get picked up by friends and family to complete their trip.
Our understanding of the issue is that you have been asked for a 1.25% tax increase this year, with the plan to eventually raise the RTMP’s yearly funding requests to 1.75% per year. We believe this plan should be flattened out, and introduced at a rate of 1.5% per year. This would allow the overnight iXpress service costed in your report, while avoiding 1.75% tax increases down the road.
We appreciate the costing of the King and Victoria station, and we understand in the case of the Kitchener Market that too many stops along the iXpress could quickly turn the premium express service into another local bus. However, in this case, the reluctance to add a stop location must be reconsidered. Notwithstanding the new employment in the Tannery buildings and the new University of Waterloo building at this intersection, the iXpress is intended to be the predecessor to Rapid Transit in whatever form it takes – and this is where you plan to host your intermodal station. It makes sense to begin conditioning your ridership now to a stop at King and Victoria – and this can be done now, with the stop located in a manner where it doesn’t have to interfere with the construction of your new terminal. Please consider providing clear direction to staff on this issue.
TriTAG is gravely concerned that the realignment of Route 7 has been dismissed in this report as too costly, without actually being costed. We proposed this because we believed this initiative would be zero-sum while providing much benefit to the choice user. If Council is told this initiative is not zero-sum, Council should know how much it costs to fix what amounts to a large usability problem with GRT. You shouldn’t need a dictionary to read the busiest schedule in the Region, yet you do – this schedule could be replaced with three much smaller pieces of paper that say “the bus runs at least every 10 minutes.”
Once again, we would like to reaffirm our commitment to fare increases to offset service improvements. They should follow a guideline of 25 cents every 2 years on the cash fare, with commensurate increases on the price of other fare media. If you wish to hold transit fares down for the poor, please do that through the existing program for reduced fare passes and bus tickets – the system needs the money from those who can afford to pay it.
We are a growing community. We can’t afford now to not invest in transit expansion. If we cut back now, we will pay the price in gridlock, reduced air quality, and the road expansion costs that the community will demand you incur. Please consider directing staff to implement an iXpress stop at King and Victoria by September of this year. Please consider asking again how much it would really cost to simplify one of the biggest barriers to new transit users. And please do consider in investing in a system that people who work and play at all hours can rely upon.