Council’s Last Chance at Transit

It is now 7pm in the council chambers and the councillors are now arriving. As council begins there is 44 people here.

The meeting has now begun the councillor are doing their opening thanks to different community groups.

Joe Mott is absent tonight. Most of the routine business is quite boring and routine. The first item is 12.1 on the demolition of a dilapidated building on city road no one will miss. Next is a review of the Taxi by-law review and a full presentation with slides.

Council has after an hour approved starting the process of drafting the new Taxi By-Law something that has been talked about for close to 15 years now. Now they are discussing changes to the procurement policies.

Now it is time for transit (11.2). Councillor Higgins has moved to reassess the decision to cuts. Now the motion is a refer to budget deliberations. Councillor Farren sounds hesitant as long as it does not increase taxes. Deputy Mayor Chase does not seem to really support this. He is even denying that Higgins did know that the facts that she is denying and is stern on holding the budget. Councillor Norton is proposing a public review on route changes, but is being cautious. Councillor Snook is supporting transit but is supportive of the public consultation of optimizing routes. The City Manager is trying to educate council that this is not a cut but a limit to the increase to 1% even though Transit has been increasing the city’s subsidy by about 8%. Court was not favourable to the motion. Councillor Sullivan is not wavering on the fact that Transit is not a council priority. They are trying to wash their hands of transit and placing responsibility on the commission and the province for the taxes on the garage.

Some appear on delaying a decision. Councillor Titus, the council representative on the Transit Commission, is placing the blame back on council. He is insisting that the transit commission placed much thought on the routes. The cuts were based on cost effectiveness of service. The pension issue is of great importance and that money has been already been spent on printing of new schedule.

Titus insists that there is not really $5-million dollars extra. Insists that we have really good services, that citizens should be proud of.

Higgins makes a good closing point that perhaps if more than one transit passenger was on the commission it could be more efficient. It could be better promoted, and that the larger percentage of users are renters and renters pay 2x the tax rate of regular residential.

Considering that East Saint John is getting hit the hardest. It is despicable that Councilor Court is taking such a hard line against the prosperity of transit. Councillor Court does not stand up for is own ward and should likely be cut come election time. Voting time it is a referral motion 8-2 in-favour. Titus and Sullivan against.

Saint John Transit Changing Routes

Over the past few weeks I have heard discussions on the bus about these upcoming changes. Some of the things I hears sounded stupid but look to be true. Now that I have seen the changes as a whole it makes a lot more sense.

Basically the routes I use are only changing by about 5-10 minutes and better evening runs. I really would not call this a major change, with the exception of the East-West and University runs and addition of a few routes. But the numbers are. They are now grouping lines by area where the old system had numbers all over the place.

These changes are taking effect August 9th, 2009. Please leave comments below on what you think of the changes. www.saintjohntransit.com has more information.

Saint John Transit and Google Transit

I sent an e-mail to Saint John Transit offering a suggestion :

I recently read on CBC News the plans to incorporate an text messaging system which is great, however the currently the method of displaying the schedules in PDF remains unreadable by 90% of cellphones.
The new Google transit system works with most cellphones (minus the maps for some) and for people with GPS Enabled cellphones it can use the Google Transit to find the closest bus stops an times. Best of all it’s free.

And here is the responce from  Chris Campbell at Saint John Transit:

Good morning Mr. Frees-Melvin. The system we will be using is from a company called Grey Island. There will be an interface with Google Transit, but not immediately. You will be able to text a 5-7 digit code from any cell phone and we will be adding a 5 digit numerical code at every stop in the city. Text that 5 digit number specific to the stop and the next bus arrival time will be sent to your phone. This will be in real time, not scheduled time. We hope that in the future people with a PDA will be able to access this new site and see the bus on a map. Google transit will come on line later next year enabling trip planning. You will see details in the media in late January or early February.
 
Thanks you for your note.

Chris Campbell

This leaves promise in the future and I think a really good idea.

Better Policy Needed to Deal with Bus Congestion

I have a concern I’ve noticed happening more often on buses over the past month or so. This effect is predominantly happening on the Hospital / UNB and East / West Routes.

As the buses are approaching capacity there are normally about three to seven seats left in the rear of the bus, however many UNBSJ students will notice only that there are no seats in the front of the bus and will stand half-way between the front and rear doors, causing a backlog of people standing.

I would suggest that the Transit Commission make it policy that all standers must stand in the back of the bus to make it more clear that there are free seats remaining. In addition I would ask that you contact the University to send out an e-mail to students advising them of this.