TAAG sent our a short survey asking Candidates for Guelph City Council and Public and Catholic School Trustees about Transit and their vision for it.

The following are the responses we received as of October 20th, 2018.

James Gordon, Ward 2 Candidate for City Council (Incumbent)

1)What is your vision for public transportation operating structure in Guelph over the next four years?
When It comes to busses, I don’t want to throw the staff under one in this discussion. They have been listening and responding and doing their best with the budget we gave them on council. That being said, I still hear a disconnect between the experience that riders are having and the system that we have put in place as a city. We need more input from drivers and riders to create a more efficient, affordable, and reliable service. We will not increase ridership unless we can make public transit a viable choice for all. And we MUST do this to meet our 100% renewable goals, to reduce road congestion, and to offer effective service to those who cannot afford travel by automobile and to those who for health reasons cannot use active transportation as an option. Within the next year we WILL see the results of a complete service review, and to supplement that we need to re-assess the efficacy of the current structure. Where are the gaps? What can we offer as improvements based on citizen input? I look forward to those discussions over the next term should I be re-elected.

2)How do you see Guelph fitting into a regional transportation network?

We must increase our collaboration with neighbouring communities on this. This regional network doesn’t really exist yet at a viable level, and it’s essential as we move forward. We can show leadership in this area, and I will be working towards that in the next term.

3) How do you envision the City of Guelph funding public transportation?
We have to turn our funding model upside down. In the last term, at budget time, we somehow come up with a number we think we can afford and transit has to work within those confines. Like our infrastructure gap, we need to catch up. We need to assess what funding is necessary to make our transit system the very best it can be, and find ways to financially meet that high standard. I fear that our past reliance on provincial help with this might dry up under our current Queen’s Park leadership, but we still need to accomplish our goals in partnership with all government levels. I also feel that the “affordable bus pass” is STILL not ‘affordable’ for those who rely on it the most. Investing in a FREE bus pass for those most in need would pay for itself with the increased health and well-being it would create.

Dominique O’Rourke, Ward 6 Candidate for City Council 

1)What is your vision for public transportation operating structure in Guelph over the next four years?

I don’t presume to know enough about best practices in transit operating structures to propose a vision. To arrive at that, I’d like to look at best practices in other cities and speak with our local drivers and riders. What I can say is the structure has to yield reliability, convenience and affordability for all riders. In particular, we need service that accommodates people who work in Guelph’s industrial areas. That means transit that is aligned with their shifts, is reliable so they’re not late and runs late enough to take them home after their work day. In Ward 6, I would like to see service extended to the West side of the Hanlon Business Park, where currently, someone working there would have to get off at Southgate, walk across the Hanlon and then through a ditch to get to work because there are no sidewalks. I also want to ensure we have adequate mobility transit for seniors and people with limited mobility. By 2030, 30% of Guelph’s population will be over 55. We need to be thinking ahead about what that means for transit. (By extension, the bus should absolutely be dropping people off at the door of the Westend rec centre instead of having them walk from Imperial!)

2) How do you see Guelph fitting into a regional transportation network?

I am a sessional instructor at Conestoga College so I would love to see some sort of arrangement with local colleges and universities to help our students get to class. I fully support all-day GO trains and advocate appropriate parking for people to be able to leave their cars and take the train. I am also interested in some of the regional transit pilots that are taking place. Nonetheless, I think we need to focus our resources and improve local transit first.

3. How do you envision the City of Guelph funding public transportation?

Again, I don’t have a background in public transit or it’s funding mechanisms so I would look to the experts to provide evidence that applies to our context. I do know that to date, funding has come from fares and money from different levels of government, most importantly the 2 cents per litre from the gas tax. In 2017, the province announced that the fund will be doubled in 2019. It remains to be seen if that will materialize. The federal government’s Public Transit Infrastructure Fund will also have $8.3 billion in funding for Ontario municipalities starting in 2018. Of course, the municipality has to have funds ready to match – at least in part. To boost ridership, reliable service to industrial areas should help. I’d also like to look at Kingston’s model where all kids 14 and under ride the bus for free. Higher ridership could potentially increase government funding. To lower costs, I expect that as the city electrifies its fleet, it can ultimately save substantially on fuel and maintenance costs. I suspect there are also significant operational costs incurred by all the changes in recent years. Let’s literally map out a winning strategy and then stick with it. To generate income, I’d like the city to review its advertising programs. Businesses that want to advertise inside the bus have to do so for a three month campaign, which is not very flexible and external signage is quite expensive. A review of the marketing mix could potentially create revenue generating opportunities. Finally, fares are an important part of the equation but they have to remain affordable. I love the special event busses. They encourage families to take transit and reduce congestion downtown.

Mark MacKinnon – Ward 6 – Candidate for City Council (Incumbent)

1)What is your vision for public transportation operating structure in Guelph over the next four years?

With the much-needed service review almost complete, it will be presented to council in 2019. The work on this review has been extensive and I look forward to reviewing its findings and conclusions, and the discussion council will have with staff that will follow. We need to bring more reliability to Guelph Transit and ensure it is an efficient and effective service for all of Guelph, while remaining affordable and value-driven for the residents. We need stability at the management level to achieve a grand vision for Guelph Transit as well.

2) How do you see Guelph fitting into a regional transportation network?

Much of the implementation and funding for regional transit would fall under provincial authority and the recently elected Ontario government is too new to make accurate predictions on the directions they will take transit. The two-way all-day GO service is of particular necessity to Guelph, since establishing reliable and frequent transportation along our “innovation corridor” will unlock many economic and social opportunities. We aren’t as large as KW or Hamilton, but I believe our skilled workforce and specialisations in agri-food, clean tech, and civic tech makes us an ideal stop for regional transit.

3. How do you envision the City of Guelph funding public transportation?

Funding for public transit comes from three sources: upper levels of government (both provincial and federal), user fees through bus fares, and general tax revenue from residents. We need all three to properly fund a reliable transit system. With the provincial government eliminating Ontario’s cap-and-trade, Guelph will likely see a reduction of funding transfers for transit as well — and this may present the city with some tough choices to make. Since funding is (or at least has traditionally been) tied to ridership, the route realignments and changes made in the past 16 months have produced positive results — with 40%+ ridership numbers initially reported. Once council, staff, and residents determine the direction they’d like Guelph Transit to go, we need to examine the balance between user fees (ie. fares) and general tax revenue and adjust our policy when needed. Since making decisions without solid data can produce irrational results, the findings of the service review is of paramount importance when considering funding policies for Guelph Transit. In particular, council needs to examine our Affordable Bus Pass subsidy so we can make a concentrated effort increase the discount even further for those residents experiencing poverty. Making Guelph Transit even more affordable for those in need is compassionate, reasonable, and forward-thinking as we work towards greater community connectivity

Leanne Piper – Ward 5 Candidate for City Council (Incumbent)

1) What is your vision for public transportation operating structure in Guelph over the next four years?

Transit is an essential public service, and must remain public (no privatization).  Frequency and reliability are the most important factors in building and growing our transit system.  As a transit user myself, I also recognize we must grow our route structure to provide access to employment areas.  I support expanding Sunday service from 7 am to 11 pm.  I support making all stops along the #99 route eligible for transfers, not just transfers at Guelph Central.  Guelph has grown considerably, so I believe there is an opportunity to examine a hybrid of an integrated radial system route system.

2) How do you see Guelph fitting into a regional transportation network?

I foresee integrating our transit system with Presto, and look forward to all-day, two-way GO trains and bus.  I also support working with the County and adjacent townships to bring Guelph Transit to Aberfoyle, Rockwood and Fergus/Elora.

3) How do you envision the City of Guelph funding public transportation?

Ideally, I would love to make all transit free.  Realistically, I would like to see fares reduced to a $2 cash fare, and lower the cost of passes, to grow ridership and encourage more car owners to use transit.  I think we should expand our pass options for day passes, 3-day and weekly passes.

Steven Petric – Ward 3 City Council Candidate

Disclaimer: Steven is a member of the Transit Action Alliance of Guelph but did not participate in the development of these questions, did not see these questions until they were released to all candidates on October 1st, 2018, and did not have access to the answers other candidates provided.

1)What is your vision for public transportation operating structure in Guelph over the next four years?

My vision for public transportation operating structure in Guelph over the next four years is 3 key priorities.

  1. The results of the transit business service review will assist transit in adjusting some of its internal operations such as how a bus route is planned and ways to improve communicating cancellations and service adjustments to the public. I would work with the rest of Council to make sure any additional funds, if needed, be made available to implement these recommendations and that Council has Transit staff update riders and council on the implementation of these recommendations.
  2. Out of this report, I would then encourage City Staff to hold a Transit Workshop, bringing in top experts to educate Council, City Staff, and the Public on Transit Trade-offs and how to set a vision for transit going forward and then setting that vision.
  3. The final thing I would want to do is have Council ask City Staff to work with the Public in the creation of a Transit Business Plan focused on the vision and how to implement it over the next 5 to 10 years.

2) How do you see Guelph fitting into a regional transportation network?

We must continue to advocate the province to bring all-day, two-way GO Train service to our city to connect us better with Kitchener and Toronto. We can also explore partnerships with other communities to fill in the gaps in our regional transportation network in the short term and long term.

3) How do you envision the City of Guelph funding public transportation?

The bulk of funding for public transit comes from user fees through bus fares and general tax revenue from citizens in Guelph. We also receive funding from the provincial and federal governments through such things as the Gas Tax to one-time infrastructure funds.

We do have some challenges ahead as there is an unknown of what the provincial government will do with the part of gas tax it gives municipalities for transit nor the tri-lateral deal between all three levels of government on providing transit funding over the next decade. We must work hard as a city to advocate for these funds to remain and that additional funding is provided toward transit.

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