16 Council Candidates Back 3-part Plan to Improve Transit in the City

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With the municipal election looming, and the St John’s Transportation Commission still working on a five year plan, The Essential Transit Association (ETA) says it’s time to voice support for improvements when candidates seek your vote.

The ETA itself has called on all St. John’s City Council candidates to back a three-part initial plan to improve the region’s inadequate transit service. To date, 16 candidates have come onboard in full support of the plan, while 4 say they would partially support it (Terry Bennett (at large), Sandy Hickman (at large), Mike Walsh (Ward 5) Andy Wells (Mayor)).

Those in Currently in Favour:

Danny Breen (Mayor)
Renee Sharpe (Mayor)
Sheilagh O’Leary (Deputy Mayor)
Deanne Stapleton (Ward 1)
Tom Badcock (Ward 2)
Hope Jamieson (Ward 2)
Walter Harding (Ward 3)
Scott Fitzgerald (Ward 4)
Ian Froude (Ward 4)
Jamie Finn (Ward 5)
Larry Borne (at large)
Maggie Burton (at large)
Debbie Hanlon (at large)
Tracy Holmes (at large)
Dave Lane (at large)
Jennifer McCreath (at large)

“The state of Metrobus’ services in this city is lamentable, and the overdue strategic plan from the St John’s Transit Commission must address this,” says David Brake, head of the association. “Hopefully the council race will provide an excellent opportunity to get the issue taken seriously.”

As a starting point, the ETA singled out three vital enhancements it is pressing all candidates to support, by providing financial backing and council support:

Turn All Hourly Busses into Half-hourly (or better) on Weekdays

“Buses on hourly frequency are of little appeal or use to most people. Independent research suggests a move to half-hourly service would increase ridership on affected routes by 30 to 50 percent.”

Double the Number of Bus Shelters, and Improve Them

“Fewer than one in ten of the bus stops in St John’s has a shelter. Given the climate here, bus shelters are a must, and they also perform a valuable service raising awareness of the bus service and where it runs … [and]to help elderly and disabled people while waiting, benches should be available inside them … doubling the number of shelters was already a target for Metrobus, and two independent reports call on that target to be achieved. But we are no closer to that goal today.”

Measure Transit Needs Between St John’s and Surrounding Communities to Help Plan a Regional Service.

“A third of people working in St John’s come in from out of town. The 2011 report recommended routes to Mount Pearl, Paradise, CBS, and Torbay – only the first two have been connected so far, and the Paradise link is only four buses a day on weekdays.”

The Essential Transit Association calls itself “a grassroots advocacy organization that aims to give a voice to pedestrians, cyclists, and those that use our public transit systems.”

Their vision is fair and clear. It aims to “promote sustainable public transportation in the NE Avalon region, on the premise that efficient, affordable, and environmentally sound transit is the responsibility of all levels of government. Equally important is the right of pedestrians to be able to freely move about our cities and towns in a safe and effective manner.”

A recent Facebook manifesto from the ETA stated, “The Metrobus system in St John’s is not fit for its purpose, and in the NE Avalon region more widely, public transit is almost non-existent. Low ridership figures mean subsidy per rider in St John’s is high, but a better network could attract and benefit many more people.”

ETA acknowledges that councillors do not have direct control over Metrobus – it has its own commission. But they point out that 3 of the 7 commission members are councillors, and the council provides most of its income.

“The availability of reliable public transportation is an important aspect in determining the quality of life for many people,” reads their mission statement. “It determines how accessible health care, education, employment, leisure activities, and living accommodations are to people that have no means of transportation except the public transit systems that are available.

“The importance of public transit is greater for groups that may already be at a disadvantage, such as the unemployed, students, youth, seniors, the disabled, and people on a low or fixed income.”

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