Tag Archives: Buses

Let’s make the connection: how can you help?

Last week, we talked about the gap in transit planning around ION and the 202 University Avenue iXpress. Click here to read the details. The Waterloo Region Record has also published a story, and we’ll be on CBC radio Tuesday morning at 7:40 to discuss it.

How can you help ensure that connections are in place for ION and GRT iXpress buses on University Avenue in time for 2018?

  • Give GRT your feedback! Follow that link to learn about the UW transit plaza and find a link to submit your feedback. Tell GRT you want them to live up to their key priority of building seamless connections to ION light rail.
  • Tell the University of Waterloo what you think. Contact the president’s office and explain that UW needs to step up and help our community get maximum value for our transit money, rather than obstructing good transit access to ION. Let the 202 pass!
  • Student or alumnus of UW? Contact the UW Feds and tell them you want the University to work with GRT, not against them, in order to make your own transit experience along University Avenue better.

With your help, we can make the connection.

 

 

 

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Missing the connection: Will the University iXpress bypass ION?

Grand River Transit is investing in a new transit plaza next to the University of Waterloo’s ION station. But they have no stated plan to connect the 202 University iXpress with this location. In fact, they propose to have the 202 drive over the tracks and not stop near ION at all. How could this be? See the plans yourself, and then tell GRT you want the 202 to connect with ION.

Imagine that it’s early 2018, and ION has begun service. A young woman leaves her home in the Beechwood neighbourhood bound for work. Instead of getting in the car as she normally would, she walks towards the closest bus stop. Today she will find out if ION works for her.

It’s a short walk to the bus shelter, and a short wait for her bus to arrive: a 202 University iXpress. It quickly carries her along Erb to University Avenue, then through campus and she steps off the bus just metres away from the ION platform. It’s a quick and convenient transfer as the train glides smoothly into the station as she walks up and just like that, she’s on her way downtown.

Now imagine instead, her bus drives right past the University of Waterloo. There’s the unmistakable thump-thump of crossing railway tracks: surely, this must be the place to transfer. But no, the bus keeps going.

She gets out at the very next stop, beyond Phillip St. She doesn’t know the area, and she can’t see the station anywhere around here. She asks a passing student, who points back towards the tracks. She starts walking.

Despite crossing each other, the 202 and ION stops are a long way apart.

Despite crossing each other, the 202 and ION stops are a long way apart.

It’s almost 10 minutes before she has found her way to the ION station. By now, she’s cold and annoyed. These iXpress buses were supposed to connect seamlessly with the train, she thinks. Do they actually expect her to walk all this way every time to catch her train downtown, and then find her way back to this bus stop in the evening? Why does her bus completely bypass the light rail line whose tracks it drives over? She can’t understand why anyone would think this was a good idea. She resolves to go back to driving tomorrow.

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Of all these routes, the 202 is the most vital to connect with ION.

Sadly, it is this latter scenario that we are being set up for. GRT revealed its plans for the new UW transit plaza and route adjustments in the area to connect here, and those plans specifically exclude the 202 University iXpress. Despite the creation of this plaza and the placement of the UW ION station, the University of Waterloo wants to block bus access to sections of Ring Road. The 202, serving our region’s second largest transit corridor, is a casualty of this decision, currently relegated to bypass ION and stop a long distance away.

The 202 is Waterloo's best cross-town route, extending to Erb West and University East.

The 202 is Waterloo’s best cross-town route, extending to Erb West and University East.

But there are alternatives. There are ways to make this work. Unfortunately, Grand River Transit appears to be proposing inaction when they presented to the public last week. The vision of iXpress cross-town lines feeding the ION transit spine may well be abandoned where it is most critical.

We must ensure that this connection happens. GRT needs to step up, and deliver a solution. And if GRT can’t bring the 202 to the UW transit plaza, then it should instead be routed to connect with ION at the Laurier-Waterloo Park station on Seagram drive.

Why not connect 202 with ION on Seagram, and also provide Laurier with an ION shuttle at the same time?

Why not connect 202 with ION on Seagram, and also provide Laurier with an ION shuttle at the same time?

Making these connections between ION and iXpress is of paramount importance to ensuring that our investment in LRT benefits more than those who live and work immediately adjacent to the line, because they connect ION riders to many more destinations outside the central transit corridor.

It’s not too late to tell GRT directly that you want to see the 202 iXpress bring you to ION’s doorstep. You can see GRT’s plans yourself, and submit your comments online. Let’s help our transit planners make the connection.

Find out other ways you can help to make the connection.

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How long should you have to wait for the bus?

Imagine a gate at the end of your driveway that opens only once every 30 minutes. How would that affect you?

We tend to think of trips by car in terms of how much time they will take. So it’s natural to compare transit by the same yardstick. How long will this trip take by bus compared to car? Is a train that takes 44 minutes to travel 18km fast enough? No question: fast transit is good.

But frequent transit is better. Frequent transit means being able to travel when we want. But this is often overlooked. It may even be overlooked in the next GRT business plan. But more on that in a moment. (more…)

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Week in review: September 3, 2016

Consultations and feedback deadlines

(more…)

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State of Fare Affairs – How GRT Compares

In our last post, we saw that Grand River Transit’s ticket prices have been raising faster than monthly passes, leaving occasional riders to take more of the burden for cost recovery than the did 10 years ago.

But that analysis is in isolation. What decisions have other cities made, and is this the right balance?
To find that out, we can compare Waterloo Region to a selection of cities from around Canada that fall into a few major categories:

Major Cities: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton
Large populations, frequent service, and established rapid transit systems. We can look at these cities to see where we are going.
Minor Cities: Waterloo Region, London, Hamilton, Halifax, Winnipeg
Populations around 400-600K, growing transit networks, and many are planning or building out rapid transit. These cities are our peers, and can see how they choose to solve the same problems as us.
Suburban Cities: Brampton, Mississauga, York Region
Medium sized cities in the commuter-shed of Toronto, having to serve transit needs across multiple sparse business districts in a decentralized suburban form. These cities represent an alternate version of what we might become.

Cash & Ticket Prices

Cash and Ticket prices in municipalities across Canada

Cash and Ticket prices in municipalities across Canada

It turns out that after the last decade of aggressive increases, GRT’s ticket and cash fares are now right in the middle of the pack of these cities.

When you compare to the other Minor Cities, GRT actually has the highest individual ride prices, and is even more expensive than the larger cities of Edmonton and Montreal. Only Major Cities, including Vancouver, Toronto, and their immediate suburbs are higher. It’s a clear trend that the suburban form of York Region, Mississauga, and Brampton make transit more expensive.

Monthly Passes

Monthly transit pass prices in various Canadian municipalities in 2016

Monthly transit pass prices in various Canadian municipalities in 2016

Comparing monthly passes, the chart is dominated by incredibly pricey Toronto and Vancouver passes, with the GTA cities close behind.

At the low end of the chart, Waterloo Region is right in the middle of our peers: a bit higher than London and Halifax, but a bit lower than Winnipeg. Waterloo Region is among the lowest cost cities in all of Canada. Of note, London has not had a fare increase since 2008, meaning GRT’s monthly pass has exceeded London’s only this year.

Monthly Pass Break Even

With GRT’s middle-of-the-pack ticket prices, and a low monthly pass price, let’s see how it compares against those other cities in number of rides for a monthly pass to break even.

The number of bus rides needed for a monthly pass to be cheaper than tickets across several Canadian municipalities

The number of bus rides for a monthly pass to be cheaper than tickets across several Canadian municipalities

As we mentioned in our last post, over the last 10 years the GRT monthly pass has dropped from 38 to 31 rides per month to pay off the cost of the pass, making Waterloo Region second only to Montreal’s 26. At the other end of the chart, Toronto’s Metropass needs a staggering 49 rides to break even, meaning taking transit to work every day in addition to multiple extra trips. Largely, most cities have settled around 40 rides, which is just shy of the monthly average of 42 trips someone working 5 days a week will make.

With the GRT Corporate Pass and the Federal Transit Tax Credit, the number for Waterloo Region can be brought all the way down to 23 rides, meaning for those lucky enough to be eligible, you only need to ride the bus to work and back a mere 12 days a month.

Conclusion

Sure enough, even compared to other cities, GRT’s fares are heavily aimed at value for pass owners, at the expense of single rides. Occasional riders of GRT have to pay fares almost as high as Toronto for service that is simply not comparable, while pass holders get discounts that keep fares at or below the cost of our peers.

It is laudable to encourage ridership through affordable monthly passes, but single-ride fares are the first interaction people have with a city’s transit system. If it is too steep a cost to even try the bus on occasion, then we risk losing those riders forever. If we must endure greater-than-inflation fare increases, then it is time for single-ride cash and tickets to have a break, as they are now higher than our peers, and in the league of much larger cities with more mature networks.

With electronic fares coming in the next year, new opportunities open for new fare structures that can help break down the divide between tickets and monthly passes. Stay tuned for another post elaborating on options for the fares of the future.

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Photo by Sean Marshall on Flickr, licensed under CC-BY-NC

What about the bus?

The announcement for electrified Regional Express Rail on the GO network and the provincial budget have raised concerns in Waterloo Region as to when we will be getting two-way, all-day GO train service. (Kitchener-Centre MPP Daiene Vernile confirmed that the CN freight corridor through Brampton is a barrier, but that acquisition of that corridor was an option the province is considering.) Lost in the details however, is another area of GO service that is likely to improve much more quickly.

We’re talking about GO buses. (more…)

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