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Guelph talks all things transit at town hall meeting

Roughly 100 people turn out to Let's Talk Transit Town Hall event at City Hall

Roughly 100 people attended the Let’s Talk Transit town hall meeting at City Hall Tuesday night.

Hosted by Mayor Cam Guthrie and Ward 3 councillors June Hofland and Phil Allt, it was an opportunity for those that use the service to point out what they feel isn’t (and some of what is) working.

“There’s no better people in the City of Guelph to help us with our transit system, than the people that use it everyday,” the mayor said in his opening remarks.

“Speak freely and speak often,” Hofland said.

There was no transit management at the meeting.

Andrew Cleary, president of the union local that represents Guelph Transit drivers, was in the audience.

“I believe the system should run on the same time, every day,” Cleary said.

Several bus drivers were in the audience.

Those bus drivers received much praise, with many commenting that the vast majority of bus drivers are helpful and respectful.

Guelph Transit  is currently undergoing a full service review by the city, although Tuesday’s event was not directly connected to that review.

Tuesday’s town hall was broken up into four key areas: customer service/experience; communication; routes and reliability; frequency vs. coverage.

Seniors, special needs riders and those that use the bus to get to manufacturing jobs on the outskirts of town all expressed concerns specific to them.

“Guelph is also a manufacturing town,” said one person. “We need to get to work and we need to get there on time’” they said, adding that many of the north industrial buses are continually full and she has to wait for the next bus.

That person said there are workplaces in the industrial areas of Guelph who won’t hire people that rely on public transit because “it’s not reliable.”

Longtime local transit advocate Steven Petric proposed a “customer charter” about what Guelph Transit should be to its riders.

He also pointed out that there has been too much change in too short a time, advocated for transit priority lanes and reiterated that “frequency is freedom” when it comes to transit.

Petric is hoping to get a transit advocacy group established in the city and had a sign-up sheet for people to sign up.

“I think we can step up our advocacy if we organize ourselves better,” Petric said.

“We need a business plan and we need to stick to a business plan,” Petric said.

Pat Hunter, a member of the city’s Transit Advisory Committee, said most of the issues being brought up were also brought up at the committee “but nothing was done.”

Transit advocate and critic Sian Matwey said the city needs to hear what ails the system.

She kicked it off by pointing out the issue with bus shelters.

“A lot of places do not have bus shelters,” Matwey said. “The bus shelters downtown are beautiful to look at, but they suck.”

A Coles Notes version of some of the myriad of concerns and issues that were raised Tuesday:

  • Extend Sunday service, both earlier and later. Many people are having to take cabs to and from work.

  • Bus drivers need to wait until people have sat down before pulling away from the curb.

  • Driver input into route changes would be “incredibly valuable.”

  • Route 3 issues: a shift to 40-minute service from 30-minute service is causing all kinds of issues, including missed connections, poor service.

  • Transit is an “economic necessity” that should take it to a different level of funding.

  • Change causes great difficulty for special needs transit users.

  • “This is a world class system, and I’ve ridden buses around the world.”

  • Digital signs would be nice, that could be updated.

  • More and improved notice on route problems that are causing delays.

  • Summer service cuts cause problems for some riders.

  • Real time updates on the Guelph Transit app.

  • Increasing some route frequency from 30 minutes to 40 minutes has created problems, particularly in connecting to other routes.

  • Frequency and wait times for the community bus.

  • Able bodied people are using the community bus when it should be for the elderly or those with special needs.

  • Buses need to pull into the West End Community Centre, not stop on Imperial Road.

  • The system is underfunded and doesn’t service the community to the degree it should.

  • Cutting frequency of the 99 route would be a mistake.

  • There will be 53 new bus shelters installed in 2018.