Transit overhaul may prove uncomfortable not just to riders


city_scope_logo-cmyk

Public transit comes under the scope Monday at city hall and
when council finishes digesting an operational review, the wheels on the bus will turn less frequently.

In a comprehensive report from Edward Soldo, city manager of operations and compliance, council will be asked to endorse a series of recommendations that will radically
alter the transit framework in St.Thomas.

Soldo is calling for the provision of transit services — currently the domain of Aboutown Transportation of London — to be tendered, with a request for proposal (RFP) to be
brought before council in September.

This RFP is to be developed in such a fashion as to allow for the maintenance functions of the transit operations to be delivered based on one of two options.

Either all functions and costs are the responsibility of the transit operator, or all maintenance is completed and administered using city staff and resources.

Soldo is seeking to place greater responsibility for maintenance costs on the operator.

He notes in 2010, Aboutown spent approximately $230,000 on
maintenance, of which $130,000 was charged to the city.

“The remaining repair work that was paid by Aboutown,” Soldo observes, “is primarily routine maintenance that could be done completely by city mechanical staff.”

And, lead to the elimination of the 10% administrative fee Aboutown is charging.

On the operating side, Soldo’s recommendations call for weekday
service changes that would see 60-minute schedules on four of five routes from 9:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., and the same frequency after 9:15 a.m. Saturday.

In addition, conventional and paratransit service would terminate 30 minutes earlier at 6:15 p.m.

While cash fares will remain the same, the cost of a monthly bus pass will increase by $5, as the current $60 charge results in “bus pass discounts that are substantial and considerably
higher than other municipalities,” notes Soldo.

The transit system overhaul is predicated by the fact provision of conventional and paratransit services has increased 13% over the last five years, while revenue has decreased 17%.

With Aboutown vice-president Jamie Donnelly in attendance for Monday’s discussions, it will be intriguing
to observe where Ald. Jeff Kohler’s allegiance lies when the recorded vote is called.

HERE WE GO AGAIN
In a reprise of previous columns, we have to again ask why council insists it can effectively deal with this city’s business with just a pair of summer meetings over a period approaching three months.

Monday’s agenda package is in the 300-page range, with several
meaty items requiring clear and careful consideration as their impact on residents is considerable.

By the time members turn the final page, can we rest assured decisions were reached in competent fashion, or were our municipal reps more concerned about calling it a night after hours of debate?

Is this any way to run a $100 million corporation?

CAUSING A STIR

Hard to imagine with hundreds of enquiries, no winning entry could be announced earlier this week in the great St. Thomas factory giveaway.

Is that an indication the rules are too stringent or is there a clarity issue?

And if Round 2 features the same set of qualifications, why would candidates re-submit, and why the expectation new candidates can be lured when there was at least a three-month window of opportunity to begin with?

If organizers feel moving on to a second round is a positive marketing ploy, they’re toying with the possibility
of an embarrassing backfire.

Do we really want to be known as the city that couldn’t even give away a factory?

ONE OR THE OTHER

A common sight of late around St.Thomas is Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands, emblazoned in Liberal red and matching Grit campaign button stumping for the Dalton McGuinty team.

That includes beating the bushes in support of McGuinty’s controversial green energy policies, even though she serves as a St. Thomas Energy shareholder — a potential clash of philosophies.

Baldwin-Sands was elected by 5,000 or St. Thomas constituents to
represent all ratepayers on matters of municipal relevance and she must remain focused on that responsibility.

Otherwise step aside now and return to your seat in the council
chambers at city hall after the fall provincial vote.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I find it morally repugnant that this practice is so widespread. Our political masters are turning a blind eye to a practice that is forcing young people to either wait idly or leave Ontario while the pigs at the trough gobble up a final helping.”
Reader Bob McCaig pulls no punches in a letter to the Times-Journal this week challenging the widespread practice of double-dipping by public servants.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

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One thought on “Transit overhaul may prove uncomfortable not just to riders

  1. Raising the cost of a monthly bus pass to $65.00 will not pay the bills.

    The City of St. Thomas obviously believes in charity. Either that, or they do not want a Public Transit System.

    Costs continue to rise for the fuel, maintenance, registration and wages to operate this cities Public Transit System.

    Now, how can the cost of these increases be covered by increasing the monthly bus pass by only $5.00?

    According to the CAA, the cost to operate a vehicle in Ontario is approx. $10,000 a year, depending on the vehicle you own, which translates to approx. $833 per month.

    It costs about $115 a month just for insurance on your vehicle.

    Thus, $65.00 a month for a bus pass is inappropriate. Realistically, an adult bus pass should be at least $90.00 per month. Individual cash fares should also increase to at least $3.75, and tickets to $3.00.

    As a cost-cutting measure, eliminate Para-Transit. Since Para-Transit riders are now taking the Public Transit Buses, why do we even need the Para-Transit system any more?

    Can everyone afford these increased fares? No, not everyone can afford these fare increases, but the bills have to be paid, and they will come out of our taxes regardless.

    Many people can no longer afford to operate two vehicles. Asking a person for $90.00 per month for a reliable Public Transit System is still a bargain.

    Joe Caverly

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