Guelph Transit wants to scrap their U-Pass

Update, 2010-02-12: Guelph city council voted in December to retain the U-Pass program. Instead, reports the Guelph Tribune, students will be looking at a much more modest 33% increase in the price of their bus pass this year (around $20 per term) — assuming the increase is improved by a referendum. This proposal makes much more sense than the expensive opt-in pass that was originally proposed. Kudos to Guelph for recognizing the value of their U-Pass program.

The original post from December 7, 2009 follows.

TriTAG’s primary focus is transportation in Waterloo Region, but we are also interested in learning from other cities’ transportation issues.

Today I learned that Guelph Transit wants to scrap their popular universal bus pass program. The U-Pass is similar to the UW and Laurier bus pass programs. One of the first of its kind, it was introduced in 1994 and provides every University of Guelph student with unlimited transportation on Guelph Transit for $61.13 per term.

According to an article in The Cannon, students contribute a quarter of all Guelph Transit revenue — $2.2 million per year. Why, then, does Guelph Transit want to get rid of the U-Pass? Here is what Manager of Guelph Transit Michael Anders had to say:

Anders said he knew the change was “controversial” among students, and would result in an estimated 25 per cent drop in university student ridership. However, he said it was necessary because the current U of G rate is “way underpriced” and needs to be adjusted to reflect the costs of running transit.

Reading the article linked above, it seems that Guelph Transit hopes to raise $300,000 by scrapping the the U-Pass — at the cost of a quarter of the university’s transit ridership. Could there be a better way?

Given that students pay $61.13 per term and generate $2.2 million in revenue, it can be calculated that students account for around 36,000 pass-terms per year. At that figure, students could contribute an extra $300,000 to Guelph Transit if the price of the U-Pass were raised by $8.34 per term! I’m confident that an increase of under $10 per term would succeed easily if taken to referendum. And if the fee increase were not approved by students, Guelph Transit could still implement their current plan, which is to provide a more expensive optional student pass.

If the U-Pass were scrapped, student ridership would drop by 25%, and those students who continued to ride transit would pay many times what they pay now. Students would drive more, causing further congestion and parking headaches. Those who could not afford a car would be faced with the choice of an expensive bus pass or a loss of mobility. Guelph Transit would lose the guaranteed revenue provided by the U-Pass, replacing it with an uncertain revenue source that can’t be collected more than a month in advance.

It’s a pretty clear choice. I hope that Guelph councillors realize this and vote not to scrap the U-Pass.

Read More »

Field Report: King Street Car-Transit Modal Split at Kitchener-Waterloo Border

In a 1999 paper, Weyrich and Lind argue that judging transit in North America by overall transit modal share is misleading, as most of the urban population is either not served by transit or served poorly. They suggest it is more appropriate to consider transit usage on transit-competitive trips. In light of this, I decided to investigate the modal split between transit and private vehicles on a transit-competitive corridor in the Region of Waterloo.

The proportion of overall trips in the Region of Waterloo taken on transit is perhaps 4%. But what about corridors with frequent transit?

There is really only one such corridor in the entire region – King Street in Kitchener-Waterloo. Between the Charles Street Terminal in Kitchener and University Avenue in Waterloo, Route 7 buses can be counted on to appear every 8 minutes or better from morning to evening. In addition to the 7, the iXpress route also runs along the same corridor, with 15 minute service. No other corridor has service better than every 12-15 minutes.

So on the morning of Monday, November 23, I set up on King Street right at the Kitchener-Waterloo border (between Union and Mt. Hope streets) with a clipboard and a video camera, and recorded trips between 7:30 and 8:30 am. It was overcast and foggy, with temperature between 1°C and 4°C. At the time I recorded all non-motor-vehicle trips, and the number of people on each Grand River Transit bus. GRT buses have 35-40 seats, but people rarely use all seats, so a bus with some standees can be expected to have around 35 people. Crush load is around 70-80 people. I used these figures to estimate the number of people on each bus as a multiple of five.

I counted other vehicles afterward on video, with one category for private vehicles (motorcycles, cars, and light trucks that weren’t obviously commercial) and one for all other vehicles. These included work vans, taxis, delivery trucks, transport trucks, dump trucks, and non-GRT buses, with a few one-offs.
(more…)

Read More »

TriTAG’s presentation to the Regional budget committee

At last night’s Regional budget committee public input meeting, TriTAG spoke in support of more funding for transit, pedestrian, and cycling infrastructure. The 2010 Regional transportation budget includes $71 million set aside for growth-related road expansion, but only $2.1 million for improved sidewalks and bike lanes. The entirety of the Federal Gas Tax Fund, intended to be used for environmentally sustainable municipal infrastructure projects, will be spent on roads. If even half of the Federal Gas Tax Fund were diverted from road spending, the budget for sidewalks and bike lanes could be increased threefold. TriTAG also advocated for transit funding to alleviate the overcrowding crisis on many routes.

The full text of TriTAG’s speech is included below.

(more…)

Read More »

Canadians Want High-Speed Rail

Yesterday’s National Post carried coverage of a new poll which shows that 86% of Canadians support high-speed rail. More than enough studies have been done, and the Canadian public overwhelmingly supports the idea — it’s about time Canada got started on it. High-speed rail between Detroit and Quebec City would connect a corridor of nearly half the population of Canada, and extensions to Buffalo would allow interconnection with future HSR links in New York, Ohio, and New England. It doesn’t have to all be built at once, and Toronto to Montreal would make a great starter line.

We at TriTAG would certainly love to have high-speed rail go through Kitchener or Cambridge, but even if it doesn’t, good connections to the line will develop, and we would have an immense improvement in inter-city mobility. Fewer cars on the 401, less airport expansion, and the newfound ability to quickly and pleasantly travel between cities.

Several times a year I make the 11 hour drive to Washington, D.C. Not green or fun, but there are few reasonable alternatives. I would love to be able to take light rail to downtown Kitchener, a GO train to Hamilton, catch a high-speed train to New York via Buffalo, and another high-speed train to Washington, D.C. It would be better for the environment, not to mention safer and more pleasant for me.

Read More »

GO Service to Waterloo Region Launches Soon

Starting Saturday, October 31, GO Transit will launch its bus service in Waterloo Region. The service will create the region’s first direct transit connection between Waterloo Region and Mississauga, two areas that exchange many commuters (in both directions). The service will be more than just for commuters, however, as buses will operate throughout the day and on weekends. Most will be Route 25 buses, operating between UW, WLU, downtown Kitchener, Cambridge SmartCentres, park and ride stations at Aberfoyle and Milton, and Mississauga Square One. Two Route 25A buses will connect to trains at Milton instead. See our intercity transportation resources page for more details, including information on connections from Square One.

This news has generated a lot of buzz in the region and at the universities, so we may well see GO adding more service quickly to this route. Hopefully this will serve to push along the plans for GO train expansion to Kitchener and Cambridge.

Read More »

Take Action on GRT Bus Overcrowding

With the arrival of colder weather, GRT is seeing a huge spike in ridership and some customers are being left behind as they are passed by full-to-capacity buses. However, without more money from Regional Council now, GRT can’t hire more drivers to put buses on the road or mechanics to keep them there. Write your Regional Councillor and ask for them to provide an emergency increase to the transit budget. The current state of underfunding is not good for the growth of public transit — one morning left out in the cold may well drive those new-to-transit right back to their private vehicles.

Read More »

Report: Light Rail Makes Waterloo Region Even More Attractive for Investment

According to a report by the Real Estate Investment Group, Waterloo Region is the best place in Ontario to invest in real estate. In an interview with CBC News, Don Campbell, head of the Real Estate Investment Group, cited the region’s Light Rail rapid transit plan as one of the reasons to invest in the area.

“You’re seeing [BlackBerry maker] RIM and seeing the high-tech industries still continue to grow and hire,” he said. “And at the same time, they’re revitalizing the downtown of the old cities of Cambridge and Kitchener and now they’re talking about [light rapid transit].”

The report credits Light Rail as a method to significantly improve property values, even when established before higher-density development begins.

“Accessibility is a critical determinant of residential land values, and the improved access between urban centres and residential neighbourhoods greatly improves the value of homes. This is even evident when light rail precedes development”

Sources:

Further reading

Read More »

Regional Council Approves Light Rail

In a historic decision on June 24, Waterloo Regional Council overwhelmingly approved the visionary staff recommendation for a rapid transit line for the region. Regional staff have been working on the project for three and a half years, and recommended a staged implementation of light rail, with the initial stretch from north Waterloo to east Kitchener, and an upgraded iXpress-style bus route between east Kitchener and south Cambridge.

At that meeting and the previous public meeting on June 10, numerous residents and delegations spoke in front of Council, the majority speaking in favour of the plan. TriTAG thanks its supporters who spoke at Council.

The vote will allow the Regional staff to proceed with funding negotiations with the provincial and federal governments, which are expected to cover the vast majority of the costs of launching our rapid transit system. Construction is expected to begin in 2011/2012, with the light rail line operational in 2014.

Read More »