Room for improvement, say presenters during Transit Master Plan presentation at CIC meeting

By Lara Fominoff @LaraFominoff on Twitter
February 13, 2018 - 1:33pm

LETHBRIDGE - It has been 18 months in the making and includes a plethora of new ideas, according to Lethbridge's Transit Manager.

Kevin Ponech presented the Transit Master Plan (TMP), which would replace the 2007 version, to the Community Issues Committee Monday and pointed out some of the highlights of the 400-page document.

He explained that 20 public engagement sessions were held, to get community feedback, which included requests for:

  • More service, faster and more direct trips
  • Reducing the cost of transit for students
  • Making routes less complex
  • Increasing trip frequencies
  • Increasing ridership

Some of the short-term goals of the plan include adding local services and increasing the frequency of trips in north and south Lethbridge and increasing trip frequency overall to every 30 minutes - including Saturdays and Sundays - and creating three Higher Frequency Routes (FTN) on major corridors serving major destinations.

Medium term goals would include a fourth FTN route, with added local services in west Lethbridge, implementing eight new community routes in west Lethbridge and creating two new bus terminals in that part of the city as well.

Long term goals would be to increase service levels overall, while examining new areas for transit expansion. Riders would also have a longer walk to get to the new routes, with an average 800 metres or 10-minute walk from their starting point, to a bus stop.

With a four-year fiscal cycle, any changes however, would  dependent upon how transit is prioritized by City Council.

Several public presenters, including Amalgamated Transit Union President Travis Oberg objected to the plan as presented to the CIC, explaining the current TMP disconnects the current flow of the city, and will create hardship amongst riders.

"A lot of it's the routing. The design that they have for the current routing in the current Transit Master Plan - it creates gaps for our community. And we believe that everyone in the community should get an equal amount of service, and should have a base service, not have to wait 60 minutes for a bus in some areas. It should always be 30 minutes and we should build frequent networks on top of that."

The issue of accessibility, especially during the winter, and hours of operation also hit home for rider Ben Rowley, who told the CIC he doesn't have a driver's license and depends on transit.

"Living in Garry Station, it takes me an hour to go by bus to the south side...and if you have a car it's 15 minutes.

"It's more in the evenings, and especially on the weekends," Rowley continued, "Because on Saturday, it switches to hour service at 7[p.m.], so it takes longer if you want to go the movies, to the bar. And on Sunday it goes to an hour, so it's hard to get to your church or anywhere. And also, it stops at 6 [p.m.], so if you wanna go anywhere in the evening, you're relying on a taxi or an uber."

As an Environmental Studies Masters student at the University of Lethbridge who is writing her thesis on the local transit system, Stephnie Watson also pointed out to the committee some issues she believed should be addressed in the TMP.

"The current stuff is not working. We have reports that are over 30 years old, and the issues then are still the same issues now. So obviously there's something not jiving, and we need to figure out what that is.

"We really need to be looking at our demographics whenever we're planning stuff, instead of just the mechanics and the economics. We need to be looking at our social, our environmental impacts. We have to be looking at the actual data numbers. We now are in an age where we're collecting data all the time, and yet we very rarely actually use it when we're going to do the planning."

Watson explained that from what she could see, administration was using numbers from some cities that weren't comparable, when referring to ridership statistics. They include numbers from cities like Kelowna, Abbotsford/Mission and Prince George, B.C. which are run by a provincial transit authority (B.C. Transit).

Interim City Manager Kathy Hopkins also pointed that out to the CIC, saying some of the comparisons were "apples to bananas,” not even "apples to different kinds of apples," and probably shouldn't have been included in the presentation.

"You really need to have that local part included, and not just during public consultations," explained Watson, who added that while outside consultation is needed, in-house information was crucial as well. "It needs to be people who are there to ask the right questions during the development of plans."

Watson believes there should be more consultation with drivers, and information collected from the Breeze Cards should be used.

Other questions and concerns included running buses on holidays and making the cost of monthly passes attractive to students, seniors, and those who rely on transit to get around the city.

The information was received by the CIC and filed as information. Ponech says he's happy with the feedback.

"It gave the community an opportunity to bring forward their concerns, and address some of the issues that have kind of been lurking over the Master Plan since it was brought to council last July."

The TMP will be brought to council at a future date and debated, before potentially being adopted. 

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