Transit Growth Strategy means better service in 2011

Transit services have changed significantly over the last decade.  We have seen:

  • new routes
  • perimeter routes
  • community bus
  • low-floor buses
  • 20 minute service
  • Sunday service
  • late night service
  • holiday service (2007-2009)
  • UG transit node
  • Stone Road Mall transit node
  • expansion of mobility service
  • U-pass
  • Next Bus
  • Taxi script program
  • bus stop upgrades with information posts, new benches and shelters
  • subsidized bus pass for adults with disabilities
  • technology improvements, including on-time performance monitoring
  • use of biodiesel to fuel buses

Despite all of these new services, it has been a bit of a rough ride for our transit system recently. Four years ago, service frequency slipped to 40 minutes – an unacceptable schedule that Council moved quickly to address. The move to a 20-minute service brought some much-needed stability to the system and went some way to meeting riders’ demands.  More recently, the economic recession’s impact on municipal revenues led to some hard decisions in 2010 that impacted many municipal services including transit.

However, we knew we needed to take a fresh look at the system.  We needed to throw out old ways of thinking about transit if we were going to build the system of the future.

So that is what we did.

We engaged the community to develop a new vision for transit. That new vision is that “Guelph Transit is the preferred transportation mode for the residents, employees and visitors of Guelph over the single occupant vehicle.” While there will always be reasons for people to use their cars, the development of an affordable, comprehensive transit system provides a competitive travel choice for everyone.

Later this year, riders will start to see the results of the new transit strategy with a new downtown transit terminal, improved routes and better schedules. The key elements are the introduction of 15-minute frequency in peak periods and 30-minute off peak service. This will be coupled with the option to adjust service levels to match demand in the off peak periods. We want to offer customized transit services for employees in industrial areas and introduce a premium shuttle service for transit users accessing the GO Train. We have embraced a family of services for our mobility customers, which we expect to see grow by 60% over the next 5 years.

Of course it was critical that we establish how to pay for these necessary improvements. So we took our existing transit budget, pulled it apart, and put it back together in a way that brings greater value for each dollar we spend.

For our customers, this new transit system means more direct routes, better coverage of the city and shorter travel times.

For our drivers, it means they can get their customers to their destination on time and safely.

For taxpayers, it means better value for their tax dollars and a resource that will improve the City’s bottom line.

There are more opportunities to improve our transit system. The Guelph Junction Railway links the new Guelph Innovation District, the downtown and the north end of the City and offers terrific potential for growth.  We will also look at how we can better connect Guelph with Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge and other neighbouring communities moving through the development of an integrated inter-regional transit strategy.

An integrated, affordable transit system supports a healthier and more connected city that works for everyone.

At the time of approval, I noted we would need patience.  The changes were not going to happen overnight.

About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

View all posts by Karen Farbridge

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