Transit user keeps pushing for improvements

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Disappointed to see city council vote to keep public transit at its status quo service level, transit user Patrick Fairbairn is considering his next step.

 

“This is supposed to be a core service, like the mail being delivered,” the daily user of public transit said.

“The bottom line is, we are taxpayers and we deserve to have a decent transit system with decent hours.”

During Monday’s budget committee meeting, Coun. Charlene Miller was alone in urging council to extend bus service.

“I would have liked to see council do at least an extended service for Saturday, but they decided they didn’t want to do that, either,” she said. “I guess the majority of council didn’t want extended service.”

The city’s elected officials opted to instead wait on the results of a strategic planning session they’re planning for later this year, during which they’re going to include concerns related to public transit, seniors and special needs transportation.

Not good enough, Fairbairn said, adding that after two presentations to council he’s convinced that public transportation is not a priority among council as a whole.

Where city council throws money indicates what their priorities are, Fairbairn said noting that significant improvement to the public transit system could have been made if council approved an added cost of $36,270 in this year’s budget.

Although the total requested cost increase to public transportation was $155,320 this year, the majority of the increase -- $113,200 -- was to accommodate cost increases while keeping public transit in its current state.

A $60,450 budget item (pared down to $36,270 through fare revenue) would have extended service to 11 p.m. from Monday through Saturday.

This funding level would extend service hours for the balance of the year, meaning next year’s funding level would be greater.

Although Fairbairn and fellow transit user Patricia Laplante have taken a public stance when it comes to the city’s transit system, Fairbairn notes that the two aren’t alone.

“It’s not just me standing on a pedestal, here. It looks that way, but it’s not,” he said, citing a petition he prepared for improved transit service that was signed by 316 people.

On top of that is the city’s transit survey, which revealed that 69 per cent of respondents want to see longer service hours, from Monday through Saturday.

Although Miller said that she would have preferred to see council approve extended service hours on Saturday as a stopgap measure for the interim, she believes that a strategic planning session planned for later this year might help paint council a clearer picture.

She hopes to see Fairbairn, Laplante and Community Service Centre executive director Merv Bender (in charge of seniors and special needs transportation) in attendance.

“With all three of them at the table, with all three of us, hopefully some councillors will be more understanding.”

Although Fairbairn has some choice words for certain members of council, he’s concluded, “They just don’t have a clue when it comes to transit … If I were 20 years younger I’d be running for something -- maybe even mayor.”

They just don’t have a clue when it comes to transit. Patrick Fairbairn

As it stands, the city’s elected officials have opted to fund public transit by $642,350 this year -- a status quo level of funding that includes a $113,200 transit contract increase over last year.

The transit system currently runs from about 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

With every decision they’ve made thus far tentative, should they ultimately decide to fund all the increases transit manager Keri Sexsmith proposed the system’s budget would reach $702,800.

This would include the expansion of transit service from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday -- on the half hour until 7 p.m. and hourly until 11 p.m. Saturday service would encompass 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. -- on the half hour until 5 p.m. and hourly until 11 p.m.

Increased transit promotion, new transit print materials, new transit signs and new seat covers are also included in the proposed budget increase that Sexsmith has proposed.

Fairbairn encourages those interested in helping spread his message to phone him at either 306-922-2976 or 306-930-8386.

Organizations: Laplante and Community Service Centre

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