page contents Vote Dylan Bressey, candidate for Grande Prairie City Council. Election 2017. page contents

Changes to Transit

There have been some changes to transit recently approved. Notably, several routes will be receiving reduced service and fares are being increased. At the same time, Council has made tax reduction a priority. This has led some to be concerned about the future of transit. They wonder if Council is going to find savings by continuing transit reductions and fare increases.

I don’t think that will be the case. My perception isn’t that Council has supported transit changes with tax savings in mind. We are looking for increased efficiency in all departments, including transit. However, I don’t think current changes are only about efficiency. They are also intended to allow for a better transit system in the future. These changes are promising.

However, I think our current process of implementing change it flawed. For that reason, I voted against our route and fare updates.

Because I know how important transit is to many, I wanted to share my views on current and potential future changes to transit.

I think transit is an essential service. Its users rely on it to get around our community. Transit service is fundamental to many people’s quality of life, and many of these people are among our most vulnerable residents. A well utilized transit system can also benefit non-users and save the City money by getting vehicles off the road. For these reasons, seeing improvements to transit is a priority for me.

There are some changes (ex: using smaller buses when appropriate) that I supported with my votes at Council. However, I voted against the fare increase and route reductions. I’m not fundamentally opposed to these changes. But I would’ve liked transit users to have more opportunity to provide feedback before they were authorized. And I would like to see Council make a concrete commitment to improving our transit network in the future.

From what I have seen, Council does want to see our transit system improved. And that is the expressed intention behind recent changes: to deliver the best possible future service, we need a good foundation to build on. We need to optimize the current system before making fundamental changes that will make it better. I think Council sees fare and route changes as having minimal impact today while enabling the creation of better service in the future.

However:

Transit isn’t the main mode of transportation for any Councillors. Changes that we think will have minimal impact may have consequences we are unaware of. Council should’ve allowed the public to give feedback before specific changes to routes were decided on.

Additionally, asking transit users to pay more is likely appropriate. Fares haven’t been increased since 2005, and Grande Prairie collects less per passenger trip than most other municipalities. But increasing fares while reducing some service will sting for many users. And I understand why it has led some to be skeptical about Council being committed to maintaining and improving transit. Council shouldn’t have increased fares until it had made a concrete commitment to a plan to also make transit better.

I’ve been part of many conversations about transit with staff and Council. We have experienced and competent people working in transit who are certainly committed to making our system better. And I think Council supports them in seeking improvement. I think everyone involved has good intentions not just for taxpayers, but also for transit users.

I haven’t voted against changes because I think they are bad in and of themselves. I’ve opposed current changes because we need to do a better job of involving riders and the rest of our community. We need to give them the opportunity to provide feedback on proposed changes. And we need to provide them more reasons to have confidence in the future of transit.

I support the work currently underway on our transit system. But I think we’ve done a very poor job of showing it off. As a guy that ran for more transparent and responsive government, this bothers me.

I don’t object to changes being made, but I do object to their process. I guess you could say: I like where the bus is going, but I want it to take a different route.

I’d love to hear from you:

-What are your thoughts about our current transit system? How can it be made more efficient? And how can the user experience be improved?

-How do you feel about the future of transit? Are you optimistic that the City is on the right course? Or do you worry about it?

Please see below for more details on route changes, and an exciting possible future for our transit system.

Thanks for reading!

-Dylan


Bonus Thoughts One: Adaptive Transit Routes

As we talk about the future of transit, I’m keeping my eyes closely on Cochrane.

It is implementing adaptive transit in the fall. Cochrane will have established stops around town, but no established routes. A passenger says what stops they want to get between, then the system routes a bus appropriately. It is kind of like Uber, but for busses.

In my mind, this is a promising system. It can ensure that whenever a bus is driving, it is with the purpose of actually moving people (not just going to stops where someone may or may not be waiting). This could increase efficiency greatly. It could also reduce trip times for passengers.

This could also be a great solution for many people who currently rely on the Disabled Transportation Society. Some of them require door-to-door service, but not a specialized vehicle or driver. Perhaps their houses could be added as stops in an adaptive transit system. By allowing them to use non-specialized transit, we may be able to move them at less cost. More importantly, enabling them to use the same transit system as everyone else promotes dignity and inclusion.

I’m excited to see how Cochrane’s system rolls out. If it goes well, I’ll likely be pushing for us to explore switching to a similar transit system here.

Click here for a media article about the Cochrane system. Click here for an FAQ put out by the town.


Bonus Thoughts Two: More About Route Changes

Some routes are being changed over the summer. These changes are meant to align current services with the actual usage we are seeing. We don’t want to have a bunch of empty buses driving around the City. The changes to routes are:

  • Routes 5 & 6 being reduced from half-hourly to hourly service, having their last trips of the day removed on Monday – Saturday. These routes respectively account for 7.6% and 8.7% of our total ridership. They frequently have empty buses, especially at the end of the day.

  • Route 7 reduced to AM and PM school trips only. This route carries an average of 2.3% of the transit system’s weekday ridership. The school trips in the morning and afternoon account for 84% of its total ridership. Outside of them, this bus often has nobody on it.

I opposed these route changes. From what I know, their impact will be minimal. But I would’ve like to see us give users a chance to share for themselves what impacts these changes will have.

In addition to approving route changes, Council has also approved the implementation of smaller buses. For times and routes with low ridership, smaller buses will start to be used. These cost less money to operate than full size buses. I voted in favour of this change since I don’t see how it could adversely impact riders.