Public transportation system “over-subsidized,” says mayor

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Mayor Greg Dionne speaks against increasing funding to the city’s public transportation program, calling it “over-subsidized” already. 

Anticipating a heated public transit debate during next week’s city council meeting, the city’s elected officials kept it brief this week.

 

On the table during Monday’s executive committee meeting was a recommendation to have public transit hours increase on weekdays and Saturdays, alongside other recommendations that total an added annual cost of $117,600.

“I’ve never had a call (for increased service),” Coun. Mark Tweidt said, questioning the public’s desire to increase public transit service levels.

“So, for me, I’m kind of thinking, we’re doing ($117,600), why are we doing it?”

The most dead-set against a public transit service level increase during Monday’s meeting was Mayor Greg Dionne, who referred to the program as “already heavily subsidized” by taxpayers.

“We’re going to extend the hours? So, I’m going to watch another bus go by me with one or two people on it, and I’m asking the taxpayers of P.A. to subsidize that service?” Dionne asked.

“We’re not using the bus service now, so why are we extending them?”

The mayor surmised that perhaps the city could even stand to shorten some of the less popular route hours.

“I’m not going to ask the taxpayers to subsidize an over-subsidized program,” he said, later adding that he’d “sooner subsidize the cab company.”

In 2012, transit revenue accounted for 44 per cent of total costs, a report by transportation manager Keri Sexmith reads.

Moose Jaw revenues made up 36 per cent of costs, while Saskatoon revenue made up 42 per cent and Regina’s made up 39 per cent.

To help offset an estimated $68,000 of the added financial burden of $117,600, Sexmith has recommended upping bus fares by 25 cents within each rate.

We’re going to extend the hours? So, I’m going to watch another bus go by me with one or two people on it, and I’m asking the taxpayers of P.A. to subsidize that service? Greg Dionne

The city has other transit issues that need addressing, such as special needs transportation, Dionne said, concluding, “We have to have a serious look at all the transportation, not just the buses.”

The service level increase, as put forward by Sexmith, is a culmination of surveys and meetings with user groups

Of respondents, 69 per cent indicated that longer service hours would better serve their needs.

Low-floor vehicles were also requested for people with small children and those with limited mobility. New low-floor vehicles cost approximately $450,000, but used vehicles can cost between $55,000 and $75,000, of which the city would need five.

Transit also needs to be better signed throughout the city and buses need to become safer and more comfortable, respondents note.

A plethora of other recommendations fill out a lengthy report, which Coun. Miller anticipates will help fill out a healthy debate at next week’s meeting.

A supporter of public transit, Miller said after Monday’s meeting that the system is important for those who might otherwise be unable to afford to get around the city.

With the west flat area she represents considered a “food desert,” transportation is required to get to a grocery store. 

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Saskatoon

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  • Mark
    January 22, 2014 - 07:04

    Maybe the msyor and counle members should park there cars and try riding the bus for a week so they can experianxe the issue that arise for people who cant drive due to disabilities