Monday, 12 May 2014

New City Transit Proposal Worth Studying

You have to love small town democracy. It’s messy and it’s edgy, but in the end, people are heard and usually the decisions which are made are good ones.

I attended a public meeting last week, which was an excellent example of small town democracy at work. It was a joint meeting of the City of Owen Sound’s Joint Operations Advisory Committee and the Accessibility Advisory Committee, which met to receive and review the consultants report on the three route transit system and to review the proposed buses for the three route system.

You didn’t read about it or hear about it because no media were present. I checked with several media outlets and no one received any announcement of the meeting. I could only find one mention from the city on social media outlet Twitter, posted the day before.

I was there because I was asked to attend by a couple of people concerned with transit and accessibility.

You can read the report in full on the city’s web site, but it is not easy to find. Our city does tend to bury reports several levels deep, making looking for something a bit of a treasure hunt, but it is there.

The key points around the three route system are that it will meet the 30 minute service requirement, will connect almost all areas of the city and will have a common transfer point.

The thirty minute service level is important, but there is only a three minute leeway. Expect delays, especially in winter.

All areas of the city are covered, with one exception. It was pointed out by both the Accessibility Committee and the consultant that the area around Ordinance Park, on 6th Ave East, will see a significant decrease in accessibility to transit. Indeed, Ordinance Park will be more than 400 metres from the route.

A member of the Accessibility Committee said that might as well be forty miles for someone who has a disability and especially in winter.

The really important piece, at least from my perspective, is that there will be a common transfer point somewhere along 3rd Ave East, between 8th and 9th Streets East. If you want a visual reference, think of the block where the Dairy Queen and Central Place are. That’s where some kind of shelter will be.

I wonder about the wisdom of that idea. Yes, I know the city has said it will close the current bus terminal. I know the economics of why, too. But would it not make sense to have buses meet at the current terminal, just a block and a half to the north of the proposed common transfer point? The building is fully accessible, heated and has washrooms. Safe space for transfer is also available.

I am not sure how the business people feel on 3rd Ave. East having a common transfer point out front. There was no indication that anyone had ever consulted them.

The other major part of the afternoon was a consultation around the type of vehicle we need for transit.

The technical pluses and minuses are all in the report. The Accessibility Committee had some helpful comments and questions to the contractor, First Student.

There will be another public meeting, according to the Chair, Councillor Bill Twaddle, to refine the discussion further before making a recommendation to City Council.

Transportation is a huge issue across Grey and Bruce. If you are interested, make sure you watch for the announcement of the next meeting, likely within a couple of weeks. This deserves our attention.