I think Lorne Radbourne and I were the only ones from GP to sit in on this session. Other GP delegates may have taken in another one on a different topic but considering the City is working on a Transit Master Plan review I thought this was pretty timely.
From the conference program:
Making Transit Work in Smaller Communities
Room: 200 A
Moderator: Councillor Louise Poirier, City of Gatineau, Que., board and executive member of Canadian Urban Transit Association
Speakers: Huguette Dallaire, Director General, Société de transport de Sherbrooke; Dennis Fletcher, Director,Transit Solutions, ENTRA Consultants; Steve New, Senior Vice President, BC Transit.
FCM’s National Transit Strategy, released in March 2007, called on all three orders of government to develop a coordinated
approach to funding and supporting public transit. Part of this strategy called on provinces and territories, working with municipalities and supported by the federal government, to develop separate and appropriately designed and targeted policies
and programs to fund and support transit systems in smaller communities.What are the unique challenges facing transit in smaller communities?What is required from planners, transit operators, funding providers, and residents and businesses? This seminar will explore these questions, guided by municipal practitioners and public transit experts.
Huguette Dallaire the Director General of Society de Transport de Sherbrooke (STS) presented on the Sherbrooke experience.
Sherbrooke has a population of 150 000 residents, 25 000 of whom are students! (wow, that's a lot but in terms of transit that's a plum user group to target) The STS has a $26M budget per year with a mixed fleet including 79 buses and 10 adapted mini buses. The city is relatively low density, there is lots of parking and public had a low perception of transit, and high car useage.
When they conducted a survey looking at transit they found that bus routes were too long, schedules didn't seem to bare any relation to people's work or school schedules and so it was no surprise that there was a 11% decrease in ridership between 1991 and 2003.
Since then Sherbrooke STS worked to become an "Urban Mobility Manager". They have an integrated school transportation system. (We are just now working with the school boards to do the same thing in Grande Prairie) STS identified that it's service must be; Accessible, Speedy, Reliable, Frequent and Comfortable.
They then looked to develop specific "target client groups" using both B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) approaches and then focusing their efforts on the largest target groups with in those sectors. (Hmmmm, maybe those 25, 000 students?)
Speaking of students, the University of Sherbrooke stepped up and committed to paying the full transit costs for it's 14 000 students at a cost of $1.2m yearly. This led to a 125% increase in ridership for that target group in a single year. The local colleges also came on board but there the students paid for transit directly through registration fees at a cost of $50/term.
As for major employers, the STS worked with the hospital which now pays 40% of the transit costs for their 4000 employees.
And finally STS developed "Communal Bus" lines specifically targeted at seniors. The communal lines are served by mini-buses focused on stops that have special interest to seniors and provide shorter walking distance to stops (100m vs 400m).
For their efforts between 2003 to 2007 Sherbrooke saw a 16% increase in ridership.
Dennis Fletcher from Transit Solutions, provided some great examples of ideas that are working in smaller communities...
Rimouski, Quebéc has a "Taxibus" service which is a demand/response or zone bus systems that operates on a fixed schedule but not fixed route. It's operated through a partnership with local taxi companies. You call the number and a dispatcher arranges your ride which you share may share with other people who can be picked up and dropped off during your ride. in 2004 the municipal contribution to this service was $180 000.
PEI, is developing a Commuter Connector system that acts as a trunk line between municipalities with Community Connectors in small municipalities that operate off the trunk system.
Halifax has instituted a rural express service and developed a Community Planning guide for small communities within the regional municipality. The guide enables the smaller communities to plan their development to integrate with the larger system.
Dennis suggests that the keys to effective transit systems are; Imaginative Ideas, a Local Champion, Community Support and finally Stamina.