Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Take a bus, ha, ha, ha

Message to transport planner Don Cook and Ward 6 Councillor Charlie Clark. People do not use Saskatoon Transit because the service stinks! Jacking parking rates again will not solve your problem (SP June 9/10) of low bus ridership. It will simply send more people out to the big box malls to shop were the parking is free. Increasingly more goods and services are being offered outside of the downtown core, ie doctors, dentists, lawyers. The big box malls are now offering almost everything the average citizen wants to buy, and to some degree, at cheaper prices. If you don't work downtown, why go downtown. The message - only the downtown can be hurt by increased parking rates and it still won't increase your ridership.

What's wrong with our transit service? You've made provision for cyclists who want to bike one-way by providing bike racks. However based on earlier SP articles women with baby strollers do not warrant that same consideration. During a torrential rain, or when the wind is whistling in -30 weather and bus riders are huddled and/or freezing at bus stops, every one of them wishes they could crawl in a car and get home quickly. When the drivers play their game of seeing how many standing passengers they can knock over with their stop/start tactics, those passengers would like to root their boot somewhere in the driver's anatomy. How can you hold on to your briefcase or parcels when you are holding on for your life. Saskatoon Transit is not fast, convenient or economical. That is your problem.

Buy all the million dollar buses you want, create all the incentive programs that flit through your over-taxed brains. Tell it all to the seniors in walkers or with canes. Tell it to the women with babies and strollers. Tell it to employees who have work schedules and can't rely on timely bus service. Tell the downtown merchants how good it will be for business. Go tell it on a mountain.

I have been in major cities and parked my rental car to use public transport because it is better, cheaper and more convenient that driving. When your service levels reach that pinnacle then you will not have to force people to use your service, they will do so of their own accord.

Your first order of business should be cancelling all City Hall parking passes, including the councillors. Eliminate the City Hall employees parking lots, including Councillor spots. When city employees and all Councillors start taking a bus all the time to do their business, then maybe the public will follow suit.

While your at it, check the HVAC system at City Hall . . I think the carbon monoxide from all those cars is getting through.


  1. But Mistress why go to the extremes of overhauling the transit system when you can simply jack up the parking rates and get a pat on the back from those already using the public transportation system.

    I agree with you about the transit service. When I was in school I frequently rode the bus for the first semester. It became clear I had a choice to make, either be at school an hour before I needed to be (no practical as a daily plan) or risk walking into my first class 10 minutes late because the next bus was often overcroweded and behind schedule.

    If the city wants people to start using the bus make it an attractive option. Have them cleaned once in a while, make sure they run on time and make them affordable.

  2. This whole situation just perfectly sums up the left wing mentality of this city.....

    They want to promote more public transit usage so what do they do..... in a perfect world you would improve the service so that it becomes an attractive option...... but in Saskatoon what does Charlie and City suggest......making all other options less attractive so that the transit system is not that bad as comparison.

    Am I missing something here? The best way to improve public transit is to hinder all other forms of transit to make them more equal.....yup Saskatchewan socialism at its finest.

    Until this City gets serious about transit improvements this is all talk. Cyclists thought they had their voice heard until the City slapped them with three crummy bike lanes downtown.... thanks Saskatoon and thanks for wasting my tax dollars Charlie.

  3. I almost totally agree with you on this one Mistress - I could nit-pick about a portion of your parking rate argument, but I do agree that raising rates will not directly encourage bus usage.

    Until taking the bus becomes convenient and a better experience we will not see a shift in Saskatoon to transit. Ever-changing route times, late buses, early buses, poor customer service, poor bus stops, and long travel times need to be addressed.

    I cycle to work Apr-Nov, and bus the rest of the time. My travel time cycling is about 1/4 of taking the bus, including running the gauntlet of our streets and poor drivers.

    Taking the bus takes as long and most of the time, longer than driving myself and I only take the DART routes - I can only imagine what it is like on the non-DART routes.

    I remember someone telling me that Transit balked at having their offices downtown because "how would they get to work"...when our own Transit workers won't take the bus to work you know there is a problem with the system.

    I agree, let's start that change at City Hall. If the one's running the system have to experience taking the bus on a daily basis maybe they will start figuring out how to really improve the system.

    Anon 8:05am - this isn't a left/right issue. It would be great to have one post that doesn't break down into the same old tired mud-slinging across political divides!

  4. While Mistress's argument is reductive and, as always, antagonistic if not inflammatory towards Clark (get over the 2006 election, already), there is an element of truth to these criticisms.

    Transit works well in a few key areas at a few key times. Otherwise, it has serious problems. Post-2005, Transit has slowly been getting better but it has a very, very long way to go.

    Yet to re-examine Transit requires a re-examination of our whole flawed Calgary Jr urban planning in conjunction with Transit - something that Clark, to his credit, has been doing. Further, full marks must be given to Sean Shaw's blog for considering these issues. Pining about how cold it is in the winter at a bus stop is "easy armchair politics": simplistic and myopic.

    Of course, it's easier to blog about that as it requires little understanding of the greater issues of urban planning.

    We need to look at the big picture.

  5. How was the Mistress' comments about Clark inflammatory. He was quoted on both CBC and in the SP regarding the issue of parking. Here is a sample from the SP..

    "When you make it really convenient and easy for people to use their car wherever they go without any impediments, then they will make that choice," he (Clark) said.

    Read more:

    I would think the logical conclusion to draw is that more impediments to using cars will force people to use transit. Not even sure what the Mistress said other than mentioned Clarks name which is reasonable since he was the main person interviewed by the City on both pieces and the one leading the idea.

    And to Sean, this is a left/right issue. Fundamentally this is a problem of a poor transit system. There are multiple ways to go about about addressing the problem and which we choose will largely reflect the current political philosophy. Will the right wing demand that we pour money (that we don't have) into improving the system in hopes of making it profitable or sustainable? The fact of the matter is that our "public" transit system is the issue and by default that makes this a political issue. What solutions are presented and eventually implemented will reflect one tendency or another.

  6. Anon 10:05,

    Why even come to this blog, your demeaning comments towards the Mistress are clearly worse than hers towards Clark (so you get over your differences with her already).

    Secondly, do you have any understanding of city planning on the prairies? It is not the same as modelling a city after a Toronto, or a New York, or a Chicago. The climate, conditions dictate a lot of the planning. It is myopic for anyone to lament being a Calgary Jr, but entirely something different to actually understand the reasons for our city planning.

  7. What I meant by left/right is that it isn't the "left" that has a certain view and the "right" another. In particular, I was responding to Anon 805AM's left/socialist remarks.

    Just because something is a political issue doesn't mean it is a left/right issue, there is a huge area of understanding and cooperation in between the two extremes and ultimately were most of our best policies come from.

    I think Anon 1005AM hit it on the head, it's a bigger issue of urban planning principles. Ultimately, implementing those principles can/should lead to a more efficient, more vibrant, and, as a result, less costly city.

    But we have to remind ourselves, Saskatoon could put the best policies on the books but until there is a general buy-in from citizens at large they aren't worth the paper they are written on.

  8. 11:02....look into planning in northern countries or areas....Scandanavian, Poland...even Minnesota.

    If your second point is suggesting that we have to design our city for single occupant vehicles 'cause it's cold then, you don't understand city planning. It is possible to have a city that is walkable and transit friendly in a cold climate.

    I don't think Clark meant this with his comment and I do disagree that raising parking rates alone is a great strategy to get more people walking or taking transit BUT if you take Clarks comment to mean "if you design a city for cars, people will drive" or "if you design your city so it is convenient for cars and inconvenient for transit, then people will drive" then I agree with what he says and Saskatoon could do a lot to make the city more transit friendly and walkable as far it's land use planning....which could suddenly make transit an easy, attractive choice for people.

  9. A bit more from the article, as it brings a bit more context to the debate:

    The city should increase the number of parking restrictions in areas with high turnover, establish long-term parking on the periphery of the downtown and increase fees during peak periods, says the report, which was produced by an outside consultant.

    This is done effectively in other cities to discourage long-term parking in prime spots. Also, there isn't a lack of parking downtown, there is a lack of parking right in front of the store you want to go into (which will never be solved). Build a few parking structures on the edges and have people walk into the downtown, works for me.

    And, all of Councillor Clark's quotes, again to put the one cited here into context:

    "Moving Saskatoon from being a car-based culture to using multiple ways of getting around and making those systems as efficient as possible is critical," said Ward 6 Coun. Charlie Clark.


    The city is going to need to be really creative if it wants to alter the long-standing dominance of cars, said Clark.

    "When you make it really convenient and easy for people to use their car wherever they go without any impediments, then they will make that choice," he said.


    "Now it's more convenient to go to the university by bus than to drive for a lot of people and parking is one of the main factors there."

    Looking beyond the recommendations, the greatest advantage of the study is that it has different city departments talking to each other as the city enters a phase of long-term planning, Clark said.

    "They're recognizing that these things don't exist in isolation from each other. We need to think about our transit system together with our cycling system and our roadway planning together with how we plan our neighbourhoods."

    It's unfortunate that we've focused on only one of his comments, because the rest of what he says goes directly to the idea of better urban planning principles. It's refreshing to hear that coming from one of our councillors.

  10. Sean,

    I appreciate your post and thank you for bringing a more clear conceptual vision of what Councillor Clark was saying. Therein lies my main complaint with his 'vision' and the ideas being tossed around by the city:

    Where is there any mention of the transit system and improvements there?

    Until the fundamental problems of the transit system are addressed they are, pardon the pun, going to be spinning their wheels. It is a valid point on the issue of urban planning but that is not the heart of this issue. It is taking it to macro in fact. The reality is that our city is as it is, and without massive changes (which are needed) the problem there won't be solved. But those are issues that will require decades, something that I don't think the current population is going to tolerate (try telling an environmentalist that we will get around to addressing the problem in another 50 years). What we need to consider is the current situation in Saskatoon and how to improve on what we have in place.

    I for one don't think that we need to, or should, tolerate the current system and divert blame to city planning. The problem is quite simple really, improve the transit system. How is entirely a different question. Jacking up parking rates again is not going to solve the problem at all, has traffic gotten any lighter since they doubled the cost this past year?

    Simply put we need to encourage people to ride the bus, not discourage people from driving. While some may view them as one and the same, they are not and the Councillor Clark seems to be focusing on everything BUT the transit system itself in trying to find a solution.

    As for the university issue, the lack of cars on campus is a nice change up for students but again it hasn't entirely solved the problem. Like the parking restrictions just off campus, the parking on campus has simply pushed the problem further away. Ask any resident living past Brunskill school about this problem. The university treats parking like Western societies treat poverty: push it away from the main attraction and out of site and people will assume it doesn't exist. Parking is still a big problem for the university, only instead they have made it the Varsity Views problem rather than their own.

    Anon 10:49

  11. "Will the right wing demand that we pour money (that we don't have) into improving the system in hopes of making it profitable or sustainable?"

    Not like the "right's" approach to River Landing, for example.

  12. I enjoy people like the second Anonymous commenter who blame "evil Saskatchewan socialism" for everything they're unhappy about.

    Shouldn't they then be arguing for parking rates to be decided by what people are willing to pay on the free market?

    Parking stalls should now be sold off to the highest bidder rather than allowing the 'socialists' at city hall to regulate parking fees to keep them equal for everyone.

    I'm sure such a plan would make for one heck of a parking fee increase compared to the small increase we just got.

  13. Here here!

    I further suggest we sell off lanes of the bridges leading downtown to the highest bidders to eliminate traffic congestion.

    How dare those central-planning socialists build $300 million bridges that can be infested by all the commoners - including older-model vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, and those horrible,horrible city buses full of the undesirable poor, elderly, and students.

    Let the market rule!

  14. To Chris and his Anon friend,

    Why bring things to extreme. Since you don't believe in the rapid privatization should we then assume you are at the complete opposite end. So to you two I ask..

    Would you rather that all citizens receive no pay, that all property would be communal in Saskatchewan and everything will be apportioned equally between all citizens. Vacations and family trips will be handed out on an equal basis meaning that you may only see the world when and where the government tells you. Furthermore, all children will be channeled through the exact same education system and they will all play the same sports, cause it would not be equal to let some play hockey which is expensive while others play soccer. In this wonderful place no one will be allowed to be different, except maybe the state commissioned artists.

    See how fun taking things to the extreme are. Cause you know, someone who is right leaning MUST be a crazed lunatic hell bent on privatizing everything they see.

    Grow up a little bit, your childish remarks have tail spun what had actually turned into a good discussion. Congrats

  15. It would appear that whether you are left, right or center in your political thinking there is a common thread that increased parking rates will not translate into increased bus ridership.

    I am surprised that so few commented on the free parking for the City Hall hierarchy. Lead by example.

    To Anon 10:05, I am over the election of 2006 - you should get over it too. Clark will be treated equally with all other councillors.

  16. I am suprised that everyone thinks that higher parking cost have anything to do with transit. For all the public whining business do about higher meter costs, most secretly support higher meter cost because it encourages exactly what they want. Higher turnover, fewer downtown workers monopolizing metered spots, and therefore more people who are actually downtown to shop and spend money.

    There is a balancing act at work here. Raise the cost of metered parking too high and you will drive customers away. Make it too cheap and people who work downtown will use those spots so they can drive to work and park.

    There are many people who do just that. I am shocked at the number of people at my workplace that plug a meter all day and occassionally move their car so they don't get a ticket, just so they can have the convenience of driving to work. I don't think downtown merchants really want non-customers monopolizing all the spots.

    I'm not sure what transit system the mistress is using. I use it all the time and it seems to work fine for me. In fact, I use it so much that I constantly worry that my car is going to get a ticket for being parked in front of my house as an "abandoned" vehicle.

  17. Ghostryder,

    I am glad that the transit system works for you, however, for the vast majority of people in the city it does not. I full out support public transit, have used it often when I lived in bigger centres, but the reality is, despite your personal experiences, it does not work for the majority of the public. Denying that fact simply perpetuates the problem.

  18. The system also works for my needs, I just choose to cycle more often than not. The system works very well for those within a 5-10km radius of the city centre - it's servicing our growing suburbs where things breakdown.

    I am in complete agreement with the raising of parking rates to discourage long-term parkers. Increased rates lead to a higher turnover of spots, which in the downtown core means an increase in the volume of people able to access the area. Similar systems are very successful in much larger centres.

    However, with raised rates in the core, you need to provide cheaper, longer-term, parking on the outer edges. This will encourage more pedestrian traffic into the downtown for those who live out in the suburbs. A few short blocks of walking isn't a tall order for most.

  19. Gerry Klein follows up yesterdays article with a much more thoughtout review of the report that recommended raising parking rates. He's got some great points everyone here should read, especially this one:

    There is no silver bullet that will convince people that it's good to give up their cars. And there is no end to those who will poke holes in each of the small initiatives that are designed to incrementally shift the current culture.

    Read more:

  20. TIM, the article makes some valid point but is slightly off topic of what the discussion is about.

    I'm all for people seeking alternative modes of transportation (cycling, bus, etc..). All this article is stating is that the city is intending on encouraging other means, but how?

    It makes reference to efforts such as the "special designated bicycle lanes" which are the biggest joke and slap to the face of cyclists around.

    As for the transit system it offers nothing, putting on a bike rack is not going to fundamentally change anything. I'd like to hear plans on improving the current system. I cycle in the summer and drive in the winter everyday to work. I'd love to be able to forget the car (and parking spot monthly fee) and just bus it in the winter. I have a bus stop that is a half block from my house. However, I need some certainty in my schedule. I need to know if I have a meeting that I can rely on a bus getting me there on time consistently before it becomes a viable option.

    I'd gladly make the switch, but first the transit system needs to get its act together. For me it is easier to answer emails on my blackberry and enjoy the bus ride than to drive. I'm hoping, praying the city finds a solution, BUT as of yet I have heard nothing about improving the system itself. Simply people looking at changing other factors (ie parking).

    BTW changing the max time on meters from 2 hrs to 1 hr or 1/2 hr would have twice the effect on turning over downtown parkers than increased prices will. Why is the rate increase even on the plate?

  21. I was more referencing that the initial article was about a report to council and that the report supposedly references a lot more than just raising parking fees


    "Some of them already have been implemented, such as increasing the fleet of easy-access buses, putting in direct access routes and information systems that make taking transit easier, expanding bike and walking trails, and making it easier to go from one means of transport to another, for example, by installing bike racks on buses."

    Which I think does suggest some of the things you'd like (direct access routes, information systems that make taking transit easier) that supposedly are being implemented by the City.

    Taking a quick look at transits website show a bunch of route changes this year that seem like they could help...hopefully anyway.

    Transit definitely needs to improve and I'm interested to read the report both articles reference.....'cause I think there might be some good things in it that should be supported, instead of just taking things out of context and trying to "poke holes in each of the small initiatives that are designed to incrementally shift the current culture" Elaine and right wing/left wing basher above seemed so excited to do.

  22. TIM,

    It's not that I enjoy poking holes at the initiatives designed to incrementally shift the culture, but I just find it to be a flawed strategy. Is not one of the benefits of a free society being able to voice your opinion?

    I have not made the issue personal, I just believe that the focus is off target and the aim of some of the propositions is ulterior to the issue at hand.

    The primary cause of traffic problems downtown are due to the numerous workers who commute, if anything there should be ample parking for customers, clients and visitors. The focus thus should be on improving the transit system to better support the workers heading downtown on daily basis. Problems such as the current route are negotiable if you do some simple planning in advance. However, more fundamental problems such as ensuring the buses run on schedule, providing adequate waiting areas and state of repair (cleanliness, vandalism to buses, etc..) need to be addressed if you hope to attract workers, especially with the number of professionals downtown. At the current time I have no faith in the transit system's ability to deliver me from A to B in proper time (unless I leave well before my intended arrival time, which isn't feasible on a daily basis).

    I have no problem hoping on a bus if I am going down to the mall or to browse 2nd Avenue. However, that is entirely a different situation than on a Tuesday afternoon in January when I need to make it across town for a 2:00pm meeting. And it also isn't feasible to bike 10 blocks in order to catch a bus to make that meeting either.

    I am all for changes designed to shift the culture, but the focus needs to be on making changes that will attract non-transit users as opposed to pleasing current users.

    None of the options suggested in that article even apply in that regard. So Tim, the sum point is that I don't like just trying to poke holes or take things out of context, just rather I'm voicing my opinion, as have many as noted in the article, that they appear to be taking the wrong path in addressing the problem.

    Based on this council's track record, is that not entirely a fair perspective?

  23. I'd suggest taking the time to read the full Transportation Demand Management consultation report going before Council on Monday. It puts one-off suggestions like parking rate hikes into context and provides short/med/long term strategies that look at the bigger picture.

    Of course, for the reports goals to succeed the City would have to address all areas of concern and not just one off policies taken out of context..


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