The Standard reports that ridership on city buses in St. Catharines reached 5.6 million trips in 2007, up from 4.8 million the year before. It’s the single biggest jump in about five years, and while the article doesn’t say it, I’m guessing that was the year the Brock U-Pass was introduced.
According to the reporter’s chat with St. Catharines Transit’s general manager, Dave Sherlock, fully 45% of transit users are students. Despite being one of those students who rides the buses every day, I was shocked the percent was so high.
Also, according to Sherlock, the focus until 2010 for St. Catharines Transit is updating its fleet of buses. After all the old buses are sent away for scrap (or sold to a poorer city in Asia, or whatever happens to unwanted buses) the focus will shift to service improvements like better frequencies in the evening.
I can attest to the cleanliness and comfort of the new acessible, hybrid, air conditioned buses. At the same time, two or three years is a long time to wait for service improvements! I wonder if this is an area with which Brock Students can help.
There has been talk of a substantial re-evaluation of the U-Pass. The outgoing Student Union surveyed the student population about their transit use (“Which buses do you use? How often? What difficulties have you encountered?”) and the new Union this September will have to act on the results.
My most immediate fear is that the Student Union will cave to the perpetual grumblings of car-owning students and introduce an exemption. But I’ll save you my arguments in favour of maintaining universality and instead propose the bus pass needs to be expanded.
Brock students pay a ridiculously low fee for eight months of unlimited bus use. In part we can get by with such a low per capita cost because not everybody rides the bus every day. Why don’t we all ride the bus? I can think of two reasons:
1. There is no bus, or the bus is infrequent or slow.
2. Students just as easily as everyone else become pathologically dependent on their cars.
Of course, we can’t extend bus service into the rural corners of Niagara Region. What we can do is make it easier to get from, say, Thorold to Brock. From many parts of the city (maybe most parts) it can range from a hassle to impossible to take transit to Brock. There are a couple corridors, Glenridge and St. Davids, with excellent service, but outside of these riders see infrequent service or roadside transfers.
If Brock students pay more for their U-Pass, St. Catharines Transit will be able to provide better service now, not in the future. More students will consider buses as realistic options for commuting to school or work. More frequent service will also entice non-students onto the bus, bringing their additional fares with them.
[photo] “Packed Bus 76” by fredcamino