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Clean Air Day a bust?

A short note in today's Mercury states that there was "no noticeable change" in ridership on Clean Air Day last week. This is in sharp contrast to previous years, when ridership increased by around 50%. So what gives?

Are the numbers from previous years wrong? Are the numbers from this year inaccurate? I doubt it. I suspect that most people, other than those who follow city politics, simply did not know about Clean Air Day's free bus service.

I rode the bus on Clean Air Day. I took an early afternoon run on route #52 from my house to downtown to pick up my bike at the bike shop, where it was to repair a broken chain. I have yet to learn how to do field repairs to my bike, but I digress... As the bus meandered aimlessly along its 45-minute trip downtown, passenger after passenger boarded and only one, other than myself, was aware of the free ride for Clean Air Day before boarding. Most were baffled by how to pay their fare through the plastic bag covering the fare box, or absently displayed their bus passes. One passenger was so excited to not have to pay that she called a friend on her cell phone to brag of her good fortune.

Needless to say, I am disappointed by this. As gas prices skyrocket with no sign of letting up, one would expect people to take an opportunity like a day of free transit and run with it.

We will have to see what other results come out of the city's Commuter Challenge, which is now over. Some modal shift is probably not going the way the city intended. My own wife, for example, has switched from taking the bus 7.1 km to get to work along a route that goes nearly all the way there before coming nearly all the way back home before finally going the rest of the way to work, to biking a 3.5 km direct route. The bike is comparable in speed, but lacks the long, barely predictable wait of Guelph Transit's 40ish-minute service.

You would expect that getting somewhere in pushing for local transit as we suffer through a 40-degree humidex heatwave at the start of June in the midst of $1.35/litre gas would be a fair bit easier. But instead, what we see is people merrily paying their nearly doubled fuel bills while demanding that the city somehow function without paying those same higher costs.

Are we really that broken?

Posted at 16:36 on June 13, 2008

This entry has been archived. Comments can no longer be posted.

Conservative sincerity | transit | Highway 7 broken thinking

Dave P writes at Sat Jun 14 09:10:56 EDT 2008...

similarly, I participated in the commuter challenge last week by biking one day to work in KW. I was surprised to discover that participation in the commuter challenge was down from 2007. and disappointed.

stageleft (www.stageleft.info) writes at Mon Jun 16 09:36:40 EDT 2008...

I suppose my first questions would be (1) was the program well advertised within the community (and by that I mean advertised in streams that people actually pay attention to), and (2) was the city ready and able to handle potential increased ridership?

One potential reason is that people didn't know, another is that if last years experience was tainted by late and over crowded buses folks may be less inclined to repeat it.

I am somewhat cynical about the level of support that many of our municipal corporations give to public transit - in many cases I am of the opinion that they do not yet actually "get it" and really only pay lip service to an idea they may or may not firmly believe in.

Lawrence writes at Mon Jun 16 11:37:37 EDT 2008...

You also hear a lot of complaining that gas prices are too high and that the government should do something about it.

I think that prices are not high enough to get the PEOPLE to do something about it. eg. take a bike, car pool, use public transit, junk the SUV, etc.

The govt has nothing to do with gas prices. It is supply and demand, pure and simple.

highwayman writes at Tue Jun 17 04:42:36 EDT 2008...

You said it yourself - long, meandering ....

When/if transit is fast/convenient people will use it. As long as it is slow/uncomfortable, they won't.

David Graham (cdlu.net) writes at Mon Jun 23 22:04:47 EDT 2008...


So then that's the problem we need to fix. What is being proposed over and over again across the province is that, because our transit system is underfunded and meandering, noone uses it. Because noone uses it, we should build more roads because that's what people use.

Let's fix the transit system first, then look at the roads, shall we?

Donovan (www.lazyeyez.net) writes at Fri Jun 27 16:43:36 EDT 2008...

Lawrence: I agree with you, but I think you have missed one thing: money. Junking the SUV may seem easy, but people have invested money into it and it does have a value. "Junking it" is no different than telling people to find a hole in the ground and dump $20,000 into it and the people who buy SUVs can typically afford the gas to run it. Besides, for many it is a status symbol.

Until there is a _substantial_ reason to move to a lighter "greener" vehicle - and I argue that $2/l isn't - people won't. That being said perhaps removing GST and PST from new vehicles that get x number of l/100km in exchange for "junking" the SUV would be a good start. Giving tax credits for living within y kms of work and tax credits not just for owning a monthly bus pass but for just having purchased a time-limited bus pass (the typical sort of pass here).

Let's encourage people's good behaviours instead of just penalizing them for bad behaviours.

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