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GRT 2014 Budget Opportunities

Last night there was a public input session for the Region of Waterloo 2014 budget, following the release of the first budget draft. This is what we presented there on the subject of transit funding:

The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group believes that it is very important for the Region of Waterloo to continue on its present path of transit improvement. This requires investment, but not making that investment will be costlier in the medium and long term. Still, we recognize the difficult budget decisions that must be made. Therefore we commend staff for the recommendations before you, which have avoided cuts to investment that could jeopardize the momentum of, and confidence in, iON or iXpress.

While it can be disappointing to see proposed cuts to hours of operation and frequency on certain routes, we are heartened that route rationalization is a major consideration. We feel there are a number of other opportunities for change, similar to the kinds of network changes that have been made recently when iXpress routes are introduced.

We believe that it is possible to shift service patterns to rely on the more efficient iXpress style routes by reconfiguring and optimizing existing service hours rather than necessarily adding new hours. Straightening out and consolidating routes in the Grand River Transit network is efficiency that benefits both the budget and the competitiveness of the transit network as a whole.

We plan to bring our ideas to staff, but we do have one request to highlight, and that is to fill in the missing stops on 200 iXpress – specifically, locations along the route where iON will stop, but the iXpress bus does not. This would shift ridership from less efficient routes, like route 7, to more efficient iXpress service, and help build the ridership patterns that will support iON. In the same way an infill station was implemented at Victoria, we feel the direct budget impacts of filling in iXpress stops at locations such as Cedar, Allen, and Northfield do not have to be large.

It is our hope that changes for GRT are implemented which improve efficiency and help achieve budget goals through increased competitiveness and ridership. Thank you for your time, and for your consideration.