Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Regina puts cart before the horse

Toronto photo

...or rather the bike rack before the bus. At the beginning of May, Regina put bike racks on all of its buses. The cost? $94,089.60 (taxes included) for 90 bike racks--plus installation costs. Unlike cities such as Toronto and Saskatooon, that are moving towards this target incrementally after modest beginnings, Regina has done it in one shot, ironically just weeks before it holds wide consultations for the first time in years.

Just today, the city announced it

will be working with an external consultant, well-versed in the transit industry, to develop a Strategic Transit Service Plan. This will involve public consultation through a number of methods.

Part of the consultation will begin this week with an on-board survey of riders to solicit comments and ideas on how to improve service. The survey can be filled out on the bus and left with the transit operators or mailed in.
This consultation will cost up to $250,000. Strange, isn't it, that Regina does a sweeping change like this BEFORE consultation. Regina hasn't examined its transit since 2002. If it had, it probably would have discovered most bus riders have far higher priorities than racks that hold two bikes on the front of a bus.

Its northern neighbour Saskatoon did a study in 2004. On p. 27 (22 on the .pdf), people said they wanted things like better service and routes far more often than bike racks. Of 77 respondents, only two mentioned bike racks at all. At least Saskatoon put bike racks on their 27 direct transit routes for a few years before slowly introducing them to new buses as they are acquired.

That said, Saskatoon is spending $1.5 million to put a global positioning system on its buses and changing fare boxes for smart cards. This, even though 7 out of 10 people surveyed in Saskatoon in 2004 hadn't used the bus in the past three months. Ridership went from a high of Best year 14,549,954 in 1982 to a low of 8,981,489 in 2005 and bumped up to 10,598,353 in 2007. Of $25.2 million in revenues, $14.8 million came from the subsidies of taxpayers.

Senior transit planner Sue Luchuck explains why the city made this step before consultations:
The Transit Service Review is expected to be completed by the end of the year with a report to City Council early in 2009.

The Transit Department believes that putting bike racks on our buses is a progressive step that should proceed independent of the Review. The bike racks provide residents with an environmentally friendly mode of transportation which can be used in tandem with transit as an alternative to the private automobile which, in turn, will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and result in a cleaner, healthier environment.

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