Re: Allocation of New Buses – PS-2019-23

Overall, the Transit Action Alliance of Guelph (TAAG) is in support of the decision by Guelph Transit to allocate the five new buses toward areas that have rising needs and demands as opposed to allocating all of them toward the low ridership, coverage based community bus route. You can see the full report here.

Stabilization of the 99 Mainline

We are especially in support of the plan to partially stabilize the high frequent 99 Mainline route with an additional bus during peak University of Guelph times. However, we would have preferred Option #1, which would benefit all transit riders throughout the day.

As indicated in the report, these options will not fully stabilize the 99 Mainline, but would alleviate schedule issues during the most congested periods of time. We highly recommend that fully stabilizing Route 99 Mainline should be made a top priority for Guelph Transit.

As the anchor route for the entire system, it must become more reliable and predictable for all riders. We recommend and encourage the City and Guelph Transit utilize all tools available to them beyond what is already being planned such as:

  • implementing transit priority measures along Gordon Street;
  • adding additional frequency during peak times and;
  • reviewing the bus stop spacing to eliminate bottlenecks such as along lower Gordon Street at Water Street

As this is Guelph’s premiere high frequency ridership route, it is of great importance that this route be fully stabilized and operate on time everytime. Route 99 Mainline generates revenue for the city through the Gas Tax as well as helps the city in achieving its climate reduction goals. We recommend that an action plan on fully stabilizing Route 99 Mainline be developed and presented to Council as part of the 2021 budget considerations.

Spare Buses

The two spare buses are very important within our transit operation and we are in total agreement with Spare Bus Ratio option being presented in the report.

Service to Hanlon Creek Business Park

We believe that it is important that access be provided to all areas of our city. While we are pleased to see expansion into the Hanlon Creek Business Park, a move we fully support, we do have several concerns, questions, and suggestions that we would like City Council and City Staff to answer and consider.

  • In the report to council, there are 3 different financial numbers being presented regarding Route 19 by staff and the consultant. Which is the correct number being proposed to Council for budget consideration?
  • To help Council and the Public to better understand the proposed costs, we recommend that we all see a full breakdown of the proposed costs and what they are being allocated toward. i.e. how much for drivers, how much for fuel etc.
  • When proposed route options are presented, any other routes that exist nearby should be shown on the proposed route map. Routes options should not be seen in isolation. Any connections to other existing routes should be highlighted and we should not have to look up route maps to see that another route option is 500 meters away from a proposed route.

We understand that some Councillors have concerns about this proposed route due to high operating costs and low ridership revenue recovery. TAAG believes that the report is under estimating the potential ridership numbers and that the costs to operate the route need to be clarified as we believe they may be higher than necessary. Placing Transit in the Business Park will not only help gain new businesses, but also higher ridership much faster, offsetting these concerns.

We also understand that some Councillors are proposing to Staff to extend the 16 Southgate toward the Hanlon Creek Business Park. This will only make the route longer, more complicated, and become unattractive to those who use the route now and any potential new users.

As we presented to the community at our recent Transit Summit and Town Hall, Transit Riders have 7 demands:

  1. It takes me where I want to go
  2. It takes me when I want to go
  3. It is good use of my time
  4. It is good use of my money
  5. It respects me by providing safety, comfort, and amenities
  6. I can trust it
  7. It gives me freedom to change my plans

A proposal to extend the 16 Southgate would not be a good use of time for riders, as the route would create even longer travel times from across the entire city versus driving. This is already a problem for Route 16 Southgate (and even the proposed Route 19 Hanlon Creek.)

A fair amount of people who work in the Southgate area and the Hanlon Creek Business Park do not live on the south side of Guelph but reside in the West, East, and North ends of our city where transit travel times are slow and complicated due to poor routes, bad connections, and low frequency. It does not take them where they want to go, or when they need to go. It is not good use of their time or money when driving down the Hanlon could save them both. People want to bypass the 99 Mainline South due to the longer travel times and congestion and be able to travel from the West and East sides of the city without having to transfer downtown.

Our suggestion is instead of leaving gaps in our service by creating this specific route or by extending the 16 Southgate, that we build a better connection to Route 7 (north of Hanlon Creek Business Park) and connect it to Hanlon Creek. Another suggestion that would be a more efficient use of time and money for riders would be creating a route that runs from the Stone Road Mall hub (allowing transfers to all parts of the city) running behind the YMCA toward Hanlon Creek Business Park before meeting at Clair and Gordon which would connect to the 99 Mainline would be a more efficient route for ridership, revenue, and time. This routing would service a mix of residential and commercial areas and provide alternative routes for people in these neighbourhoods to work, shop, and play.

Community Bus 

We agree in principle with the new community route adjustments and the addition of another bus. Re-branding the route as a regular route is a step in the right direction to gaining additional ridership and visibility. 

The current proposed operating times do extend access to more days of the week, however, it does not provided enough frequency or service hours to draw a substantial increase in ridership. 

Expanding the weekday service hours to a 12 hour day, from 7 am to 7 pm, would make the route more attractive and accessible to more riders as would an increase in the frequency. The design of the route is complex and not easily accessible to everyone. We believe this route must be looked at in the broader Transit Strategic Plan for more efficient and affordable route design options.

The Path Forward

As we look ahead toward the Guelph Transit Strategic Plan, we want Council and Guelph Transit to recognize that these proposed changes may need to be adjusted or even scrapped as it may not be what the Community of Council sees as the Vision for Transit in our city. 

As mentioned on Page 22 of the Transit Business Service Review, our city will need to determine the goal of our transit system through a comprehensive route review and ridership demand analysis to identify future network structure options, with routes and service frequencies. According to Guelph Transit’s work plan, this will occur in 2020 and 2021.

Instead of focusing on individual routes, what can drastically alter the discourse of public transit in Guelph is talking about trade-offs. Good transit planning is always about understanding and accepting that there are trade-offs. 

Before discussing which route goes where, what we first should be focusing on is how much of the limited resources do we want dedicated to doing one thing over another. We made this presentation at our recent Transit Summit and Town Hall and are willing to meet with Councillors who could not attend to go through it.

While we are supportive of the business cases and forecasts for increasing the frequency on Route 8 and Route 20 and adding service to cover the Hanlon Creek Business Park, we feel it is important that we establish the principles and identify the pillars to shaping the future transit network first by having the conversation on trade-offs and setting the vision for transit before some of these recommendations are considered or fully implemented.

Other coverage:

Guelph Transit may expand into Hanlon Creek Business Park

We will have a response to the proposed 2020 Operating Budget once this is dealt with by City Council on Monday.

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