It’s time for regional transit

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Andrew Robinson’s article “How to get around,” Aug. 25, concerning regional public transit, outlined the absence of leadership and vision present among provincial and municipal leaders towards the subject.

Unfortunately, the provincial government, in its energy policy document, exhibited its shortsightedness when it dismissed regional public transit as a viable option in its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To date they have tended to view it as a transportation option meriting little importance on their agenda.

Deeper examination of regional public transit reveals it to be an important piece of economic development and accessibility infrastructure for many communities on  the Northeast Avalon. Discussions with employment agencies and employers reveal the lack of access to public transit inhibits potential employees from taking entry level positions and thus affects economic growth among some local businesses.  

The absence of regional public transit in areas outside the boundaries of St. John’s results in up to 40 per cent of available parking in the downtown being taken by downtown workers who have no other option to access their places of employment.  

Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador identified transportation as a key issue in the future expansion of tourism in the province. So many visitors rely on car rentals that the fleet is usually booked solid before the start of the tourist season. Unfortunately, the number of motor coaches and private buses has stagnated in recent years.

Under these circumstances, it seems unlikely that the province will achieve its target of doubling tourism revenues over the next few years.

Similarly, the seniors population of the Northeast Avalon is projected to be 30 per cent of the total population for this region by 2026. As many of them become unable to drive, they, too, will need access to public transit.

Every day, 20,000 or more students, faculty, staff and visitors migrate towards the Memorial University campus.

Many of these individuals have to travel from outside the city boundaries where public transit is not available. They often mingle with staff and patients travelling from similar locales to the province's largest hospital — the Health Sciences complex. Most of us are painfully aware of the difficulties involved in finding parking space and suffering through traffic jams in these situations.     

In this context it seems that the comment of Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O’Brien that, “It’s not even on my radar,” is very much out of step with

the reality of the expanding urbanization occurring on the Northeast Avalon.

The population of Newfoundland and Labrador needs accessible public transit so they can access the public and private services situated on the Northeast Avalon.

Along with the university and the Health Sciences complex, these include: the Confederation Building and other federal, provincial and municipal government offices and services; the Marine Institute; the College of the North Atlantic; the St. John’s downtown core; shopping centres and the airport.

As many urban and rural regions of Canada have come to realize, regional public transit provides mobility and access to basic services and amenities for all but the most challenged of our citizens. It’s been shown to reduce stress and greenhouse gas emissions, thus improving our quality of life and our natural environment.

However, for the system to be effective it must make the transition from being a service provided by one city, St. John’s, to a truly regional public transit system that provides a high level of service to all areas on the Northeast Avalon.

It needs to consider multiple perspectives and integrate a variety of transit models ranging from present urban bus routes to commuter buses to rural van service and carpool programs.

Public dialogue combined with partnerships among government departments, local businesses and employers could be some of the first steps taken to develop pilot projects and identify routes and schedules to make regional public transit a reality.

Fred Winsor writes for the Regional Public

Transit Coalition. He lives in St. John’s.

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, Health Sciences, Confederation Building Marine Institute Regional Public Transit Coalition

Geographic location: Northeast Avalon, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Samael
    November 19, 2012 - 14:55

    Well that answers one question. Now I need a site that is as informative, only about waste removal.

  • JT
    September 19, 2012 - 15:20

    This TURDY or is it TURRY person thinks just like the rednecks in Alberta. Right wing rednecks in the Wildrose province believe that the rest of Canada is a drain on them. The Sin Jawns corner boys are of the same or similar mindset it seems.

  • Turry from town
    September 18, 2012 - 08:17

    Peter,you are partly correct.The city of St.John's and it's citizens pay for all the roads in and around the city by way of property and municipal taxes.The roads you brownbaggers beat-up is paid for by my taxes not yours.Going to Tim's or Costco like you do does not cover the money needed to pay for infastructure.If that were the case,then all I would have to do is the same as you,just buy a few things here and that would pay for everything.The population of St.John's doubles everyday by commuters who spend the bulk of money in their own towns,and pay nothing in the way of taxes for the services they use here everyday. That is out of my pocket.Team Gushue should be tolled and all majoir roads that lead into St.John's so you people nolonger get a free ride.Bigbox stores are an example of growing border towns,but the people still come to St.John;s to make a living,so my friend,you people still need St.John's.

    • PETER
      September 18, 2012 - 11:25

      Once again tully you are wrong, and you make too many assumptions. First I live and work in the CBS/Paradise area. I very seldom go into St. John's for anything, but when I do I spend money at local business, a portion of which goes back to St. John's in the way of business and property tax. A toll should not be put anywhere, tolls are used in other areas to pay for highways, not as an entrance fee to the municipality or city. Unless you never leave the city, which I doubt, your travels outside use the roads and facilities of other towns. So do all those city folks who go for Sunday drives and leave litter, garbage, and speed through other towns. The idea of a toll is very small minded, but taking your train of thought, tolls should also work for you guys leaving town for Sunday drives, berry picking, using sports facilities outside the city and all other things. I can just imagine the uproar if the fine city folks had to pay to leave hey! No other city charges an entrance fee, and again tolls are set up for the payment of the road it is on, not an entrance fee. Again, you should study it deeper, and from all sides, not just your own shallow opinion. And by the way, the grants the city gets from the province and federal government is from everyone in Newfoundland, from all our tax dollars, so we do indirectly pay to the city, in our business purchases and in our other tax dollars.

    September 17, 2012 - 16:39

    TURRY & POLITICAL, You guys sure missed the boat on this one. Did you even read the letter? First TULLY, the Team Gushue Highway is a provincial highway not a St. John's highway. It was constructed by the province, not St. John's, out of tax payers money from all over the province, so folks in Mount Pearl are paying for it already. The maintenance is also paid for and completed by the province, including snowclearing, so even folks in Labrador who will never use it are paying for it. The province asked St. John's and Mount Pearl to help with those cost, borne by everyone, and Mt. Pearl said no, it's a provincial responsibity, they never said it would not benefit them. As for POLITICAL, the letter is about a regional approach to transportation, not a St. John's approach. All areas outside St. John's pay for their usage of regional services such as water, garbage and waste removal, fire services etc., no town outside gets bargain basement prices, each pays it way for the services it receives. Also, anyone from outside St. John's patronizes business in St. John's, be careful with that. When more big box stores go outside the city, more business inside will close, just look at the Village Mall. St. John's business depends on the business from those outside to survive. You guys really should study the issue deeper before making such uninformed comments.

  • Turry from town
    September 17, 2012 - 08:17

    I anxiously wait to see how many people from MP use the Team Gushue highway to get to work in St.John's, eventhough the mayor of MP,Randy Simms,who works in St.John's,says it will be of no benifit to MP and they won't help pay for snowclearing etc....

  • Political Watcher
    September 16, 2012 - 15:19

    How can you have regional transit when you have communities outside St. John's who just leech off their bigger cousin? The CBS's and Mount Pearl's of the world want services but don't want to price that comes along with it. Still waiting for Mount Pear to release the findings of their own transit study: my thought is that the are afraid to because the logical outcome is to pony up and pay St. John's more for the service they have.

  • billy
    September 15, 2012 - 07:53

    I've made this comment before and I'll say it again. Why can't the City and the Prov Govt look at implementing a park/ride system for the region. This system is working just fine in Aberdeen Scotland. They have designated parking lots (paved) along with a small building which includes bathroom facilities and vending machines. The parking is "free" and buses leave on a regular basis. Bus passes are available and at a discount. Not rocket science stuff folks.

    • Chantal
      September 17, 2012 - 10:28

      That would make perfect sense, Billy. And why isn't there a shuttle bus from the airport?