Improving Transit in St. Catharines (II)

The minutia of of the St. Catharines Transit Commission warranted an article in the Standard on Wednesday. The Commission has apparently underestimated the number of students riding Route 16 during rush hour, which leaves some residents waiting by the side of the road for the next bus. So now two buses will leave Brock at 4 pm when there had been only one.

Dull, I know, but there are some greater issues which I can use this article as an excuse to talk about.

First, the Commission doesn’t seem to know how many people are riding its buses. Besides anecdotal evidence from drivers or complaints from the public, how do they determine which routes have too little service? Or, more rarely, too much?

Second, Route 16 is not providing enough service, at times, along Glenridge Avenue. Route 16 is running with half the frequency as during the Brock fall/winter semester, but with far less than half the student population of the school year. If it is leaving people behind now, how does it fare under the pressure of thousands of students as well as year-round community members?

I maintain that alternatives to the main Route 16 are necessary to get people moving along Glenridge Avenue. Right now, Route 16 serves people travelling short distances quite well. Wherever you need to go, there is a bus stop nearby. At the same time, frequent stops slow the bus down and, in my experience, it is pretty rare for the bus to reach the end of the route by the scheduled arrival time.

Sending out two buses at once solves the immediate capacity problem, but I think it is a wasted opportunity.

One possibility, which I have outlined before, is the expansion of express service on Highway 406. The Brock Bullet from downtown to Brock University is an excellent start. This diverts long distance commuters off Route 16 and frees up space for people with shorter trips. Unfortunately the Bullet doesn’t run all day, so it cannot be depended on in the afternoon. Perhaps, if there is not enough demand for all day express service between downtown and Brock, an intermediate stop could be made at the Pen Centre, with the added benefit of now having an express bus to the city’s largest mall as well.

We take high gas prices for granted these days. If riding the bus didn’t take such a maddeningly long time to get places (sharing far too much personal space with strangers) I think people would be more inclined to give up some of their weekly car trips for a bus trip. Improve travel times, improve travel conditions, and ridership will follow.

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