Six In The AM: The Transit Investment Plan Edition

The Transit Investment Plan was released on Friday to virtually no fanfare. It’s a comprehensive document that outlines a series of recommendations on how to make Regina’s transit system function better. And like the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan, it seems to say all the right things: Make transit a priority. Increase ridership. Improve pedestrian and cycling networks. Integrate with the Downtown Plan. Make transit more user friendly. Expand service. Speed service up.

Want a taste of what to expect from its 260 pages? Here are six standout recommendations to whet you’re appetite....

1. MORE DIRECT ROUTES: The route network has been redesigned according to something they’ve dubbed the Top Down Plan. Basically, the plan keeps the downtown as the hub for transit -- most major routes will be stopping at a spot just north of the main library -- but the routes will meander less and not penetrate quite so far into the suburbs. To service those areas, there will be a series of short buses that run shorter shuttle loops. In theory, while people may have to transfer a little more often, overall transit and wait times will shrink.

2. HOLIDAY SERVICE: These new schedules will finally provide long-overdue holiday and Sunday service. Yay! No more sitting around on Family Day doing nothing because the buses aren’t running.

3. MAKE TRANSIT COMPETITIVE: There are a few ideas on how to make transit more attractive to more people. Things like, an overall parking management strategy that could lead to higher parking prices downtown -- oh, I can almost hear the hue and cry already. (Here’s hoping someone will do the same at the UofR.) Also, dedicated bus lanes will be added to major streets to improve transit speed and reliability. And, the Transit Department will take another stab at getting a UPass for post secondary students and consider things like making transit passes available to businesses and communities.

4. MORE BUSES: Our current fleet is looking pretty old and many aren’t fully accessible. The plan recommends purchasing up to 12 buses every year.

5. GET THE WORD OUT: A transit marketing manager will be hired to expand awareness of RTS’s improved service. Customer information will be improved through things like a more interactive website and GPS on buses that’ll allow for live updates about how the buses are running. You’ll be able send a text to RTS and find out when exactly your bus will arrive. Nifty.

6. SERVICE TO THE AIRPORT: About bloody time.

There’s more of course. Lots more. Smart cards. Annual fare increases. Heated shelters. Oh, and a note about how supervisory positions will be made union-exempt to reduce conflicts of interest. I imagine there’ll be more than a few RTS employees who’re none too happy about that one.

Still, from my cursory read, it looks like a plan that’s headed in the right direction. It will go before the Community and Protective Services Committee tomorrow at 4pm. If you want to show up to show your support or to offer a critique, you can attend the meeting and have your say. If it gets through there, it’ll presumably go before council at their next meeting (which will be, I believe, February 22).

The plan can be download on the city's website. And if you want to discuss it in an open, friendly, online forum, there’s a comment button below.


Pat said...

There's likely a lot of recommendations that won't be implemented, at least for a good long while. Buying twelve new buses every year would be an expenditure of nearly six million dollars. There's now way we can afford that.

Barb Saylor said...

Thanks for this, Paul. I've yet to read the report, or even the executive summary, but I'm greatly encouraged by the items you posted. (And, after my last trip home from the airport: #6 IN SPADES.)
By the way, some businesses already take advantage of the employee pass, so I assume that the program will be expanded.
When I was on the Public School Board, I was entitled to a monthly bus pass for doing Board business, just as Trustees who drove were entitled to parking passes. I always chose to purchase my own, however, because I used the passes for as much personal as Board business. (And in the last few years, as a tax deduction.)I was, for 9 years, the only elected official in Regina who regularly used transit. I offered myself for a promo, but no one took me up on it, so I'm glad to see that marketing will be taken more seriously than it has been. A smart card might also help compile stats on ridership, which would help immensely.

Laura said...

Woot! Very exciting indeed. I think #1 is my favorite idea. I have thought for quite awhile that it is worth thinking of bus routes like a subway or metro system: direct routes to specific locations (or "subway stops") then with shorter routes to get people to those "stops". Like you say, more transfers but overall more direct and efficient.

observer said...

heated shelters, about time

observer said...

Over-abundance of parking lots. A large percentage of land Downtown is devoted to parking
facilities, particularly to temporary and permanent surface lots. These facilities limit development and
have a detrimental impact on the aesthetics of the downtown. Figure 8 provides a visual illustration of
the amount of land that is dedicated to buildings versus to parking facilities.

shurely someone at Prairie Dog can give us a figure on this - do an estimate, if it's wrong, then someone can give you the right figure and regina can be shamed into showing how much of downtown is parking lot space - and how much tax is paid on the parking lot space v other space

observer said...

A detailed examination ... and for employers to provide bicycle facilities

duh, showers, bike storage, locker for clothing, and don't expect staff to have prairie hairdresser hair

Paul Dechene said...

Hey Observer. Glad to see your blog holiday is over.

As for the percentage of downtown that's parking... I don't have that number at my fingertips. I think there must be something on that in the downtown plan though. But I agree, too much of the downtown is a barren wasteland of parking.

The tax question is another interesting one. I think we did something in a newsbrief around the time the Downtown Plan came out about how one of its recommendations was originally to increase holding fees for empty lots and parking but that was removed. It came out, actually, during that mysterious consultation period that was added into the process when some in council and the development community demanded "more soak time" to consider it. Back then, Bob Bjerke, Director of Planning and Sustainability, said that the boost to parking lot taxes was removed because they wanted to try a carrot approach to encourage development as opposed to going straight for the stick. (I'm not quoting there. That's a paraphrase.)

So, in short, what are the specific taxes of a surface parking lot versus a developed lot? Good question but I can't tell you right now.

observer said...

incredible!!!!! "sustainable" appears only seven times!!!!!!

report's obviously rubbish, a report like this should have "sustainable" littered throughout, and i mean littered. 200 times.

Paul Dechene said...

Barb: I'm going to have to go back and read it again, but the employee transit pass for businesses sounded to me like an expanded program. And I think the goal was for it to be something you could use regardless of whether it was for commuting to work or not. My hope would be that it could be transferable too so that you could hand it off to a family member, say. I'd like to think the benefits of boosting ridership would outweigh whatever loss in terms of fares you'd suffer from transit pass transferability.

observer said...

hi paul

someone clever with graphics could probably take a google map view of regina downtown and with soem facny software show how much area is roads/alleys, how much is footpaths, how much is on street parking, how much is parking lots or undeveloped lots set aside for parking

i'm a luddite so i can't do it

BTW, winnipeg was the same last time i was there

Laura said...

Here is a map of downtown (and area) parking lots I made close to 2 years ago. It may be a little outdated (I'd have to go back and check everything... perhaps with Google Streetview), but it is an initial visualization.


Stephen LaRose said...

Last August, I interviewed Bill Brennan from the U of R regarding the tear-down of the Plains Hotel. He said Regina's downtown had enough surface parking for a downtown three or four times its size, probably thanks to all the buildings that were torn down for taxes half a generation ago.