Thursday, April 8, 2010

Transit Plans and Lost Summer

Consulting group reveals bold plan for Transit

Guelph’s Transit Growth Strategy and Plan was addressed in two sessions last week at the Evergreen Seniors Centre and City Hall, respectively. After a public meeting last December, over 1,100 completed written surveys, 6,000 online surveys and interviews with members of council and transit stakeholders, the crew of Dillon Consulting unveiled their master plan, which was, to say the least, ambitious.

I had the opportunity to be a proverbial third wheel as Ward 3 Councillor June Hofland was taken through the proposed changes by Richard Puccini, a transportation consultant with Dillon. The plan was broken up into three areas: improvements to mobility service, changes to conventional bus service and the assessment of Higher Order Transit for the city (ie: light rail, use of Guelph Junction Rail lines and intercity transit). The overall vision of the project, to summarize, is to make public transit the preferred mode of transportation for everyone in the City of Guelph be they resident, worker or visitor.

First up were improvements to the city’s mobility service and according to the survey, ridership on Guelph’s mobility buses hasn’t increased in the last few years. The thing is though, it will. With an aging population, the city will need to expand past one mobility bus running four hours a day. Instead Puccini and his fellow consultants recommend getting a second bus and a north and south route. Further, the consultants talked about targeting those routes to the amenities and locations that seniors frequent. It’s hoped that within two years, ridership will expand by 25 per cent and then expand to 60 per cent in five years.

Conventional service is where things really get interesting. First, it was noted in the surveys that despite an overall excellent record of service, Transit is still slipping so far as areas being underserviced or dealing with the fact that sometimes bus demand is either overwhelming or unable to meet demand. Puccini explained that a grid system was out of the question because the nature of the layout of Guelph streets makes it impractical. Instead, the Dillon team is recommending a complete teardown of the current routes and make the straight shot of Gordon, Norfolk and Woolwich the primary transit corridor of the city. They also suggest adjusting route lengths to make runs 15 minutes during peak and 30 minutes off peak.

Overall though, Puccini said Guelph’s ahead of many southern Ontario municipalities with 6.1 per cent of the city population taking the bus as their primary form of transportation. Still 65 per cent are single person auto-centric and the city will need to take steps to discourage that while also encouraging a dynamic, multifaceted approach to transportation that includes biking, walking and carpooling.

To get more information about the Transportation strategy go to

5 Lost Days of Summer

Despite lengthy negotiations between the City and the workers’ unions in an effort to co-ordinate the five unpaid days for city workers approved in this year’s budget, it seems that Guelph services will effectively be shutdown five days this summer. Facility closures and service disruptions will be in effect Monday June 21; Friday July 9; Thursday July 22; Wednesday August 11; and Tuesday August 24. However, this doesn’t include transit, which will have to take its lumps in the month of August during which time Sunday service will be cancelled. That’s right, I hope none of you out there take the bus in order to get to church, work, or other points of interest on a Sunday, because you’re going to be S.O.L. in August.

“While this has been a difficult decision and will undoubtedly be unwelcome news for residents, the measures are necessary to mitigate further property tax increases,” said Guelph’s Chief Administrative Officer Hans Loewig in a press release. “We thank all of the parties for their willingness to discuss ways to avoid service disruptions, which demonstrates a collective commitment to public service.”

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