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The city will cut transit funding this fall. I guarantee it

This week's Market Squared is a warning to transit users and operators that unless they get ready now, then transit will be the first to be cut in this fall's budget struggle.
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20180815 guelph transit ts
GuelphToday file photo

Let’s review a week in using Guelph Transit.

On Saturday I was going to work, and at a major intersection near where I got on the bus, there was a serious car accident. The bus could not turn around, and thus could not take an alternative route. The driver said he had no idea how long we would be stuck there.

After waiting about 10 minutes, I realized that just down the road and around the corner, there was a stop on a different route that would have taken me to where I was going. I got off the bus and hustled down the street.

That bus didn’t come. I figured I had probably missed it by a few minutes, so I waited.

Emergency workers continued to work on the accident scene, and five minutes before the next bus was supposed to come, a Guelph Transit supervisor came up to me and told be that the bus I was waiting for was being detoured. The closest stop that I could catch that bus at was an easy 15-minute walk away.

In the meantime, the original bus I took had continued on its way. Traffic was moving on three out of the four directions at the intersection, but the bus I needed was for some reason being detoured.

There was another woman waiting at the stop across the street, and the supervisor said he was going to talk to her and see about getting us a ride to the stop we need to make our connections. He never came back.

Instead, I took a $20 taxi to work, and not for the first time, because of a transit hiccup. Heck, it wasn’t even the first time I was on the bus and encountered an accident at this intersection.

The next day, Sunday, I had to take a taxi home from work. I was scheduled to work till 9 p.m. and Guelph Transit ceases Sunday operations at 7 pm.

Then, on Thursday, I was heading to the University of Guelph. Easy, right?

Nope.

I get downtown, and hop on the #41 Downtown-University Express, and waited. And waited.

As the driver of the #41 chatted with colleagues, me and several others waited for our inevitable departure to the U of G. And waited.

After about five minutes of waiting, a #99 Mainline pulled up, and nearly everyone got off the #41 and got on the #99. Within seconds, the #41 driver finished her conversation, got on her bus, and left. We waited with the #99 to depart for another five minutes.

There was also the instance of a detour I didn’t know about, which only forced me to walk about five minutes out of my way, and that was no big deal.

Also, I realize that this was a pretty exceptional week in terms of transit issues. As they say, these things come in threes.

Plus, and this is something I’ve noticed all these years taking Guelph Transit, it’s always seemed like staff has a summer mindset. Maybe it’s the increase in road construction, or maybe it’s the decrease in student riders, but drivers don’t seem as hard on their game in July and August.

Going along with that, I’ve noticed in the last few weeks more people at the front of the bus chatting with drivers as they drive. There’s a big white sign at the front of the bus that says you’re not supposed to do that, but rules are for nerds, I guess.

So what does this all add up to?

Just that it reinforces the prevailing opinion in Guelph that transit is for people that can’t afford another option. It’s not a commuter service, but a service of last resort. It is, at best, a Sunday drive of a transit system, a good way to see the town and hang out with friends if you have no particular place to go.

Because of that, Transit has always been a soft target for council and staff when they’re looking to save money. We seem to have forgotten the middle part of this decade when transit service was cut, or fares were raised, in order to off-set increases.

This is always easy for staff and council to do because the people who take the bus – the poor, the working class, students – are usually too busy on the margins to worry about city politics or participate in municipal elections.

Unless GuelphTransit gets back on their game, and unless transit users start getting loud now, this fall’s budget headline will be transit cuts because it’s always the low-hanging fruit that gets picked first. No one whose voice matters the most will be upset about transit cuts more than a tax increase, or the loss of sidewalk plowing, or cuts to parks and recreation services.

Unless things change, council will cut transit in next year’s budget. I guarantee it.



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