Recent comments made by St. John’s Coun. Tom Hann concerning public transit access to the airport require a serious conversation about general transit access in this city.
Our organization represents a large number of newcomers to our province. Many of our members in this wonderful city rely on public transit for their daily lives; whether to go to work, to school, to the store, or any number of destinations, public transit is central to so many newcomers in our city. Many of them come from countries where transit is crucial as a means of social equity, ensuring that everyone has reliable transportation regardless if they can access a vehicle.
We have heard at numerous joint events with the Coalition on Richer Diversity (CORD) that public transit is one of the key municipal services that newcomers look to when deciding to settle in St. John’s. New arrivals to our city look at the quality of services as a key deciding factor when deciding where to settle, and public transit has been consistently in the top tier of concerns.
This is why Hann’s comments regarding a proposed bus route to the airport were troubling for us (“Councillor doesn’t want Metrobus competing with taxis for airport runs,” Feb. 11). A great number of our members require travel for themselves and their families and friends, and affordable and accessible transportation to and from the airport, along with hospitality providers and businesses in the area, would be a vital improvement in their daily lives.
There is also the issue of employment in the area; a number of our members are currently looking to improve their employment situation, and a transit link to the airport and area would greatly expand their opportunities for gainful employment. As well, a number of our members currently working in the area would be better serviced by having a public transit option to go to work.
Also, many of our members cannot afford the fees charged to park their vehicles at the airport (if they are able to afford a vehicle) and neither can they afford the rates that taxi companies charge to take them to the airport. These are just some of several examples in which inadequate transit access is a very serious impediment to newcomers.
We understand the needs of cab companies in this city. Many cab drivers are newcomers themselves, looking to make a living for their families. However, a balance has to be struck between these two factors.
Most importantly, Hann’s comments speak to the perceived lack of consideration for transit policy. St. John’s is an amazing city, and we encourage everyone coming here to plant down roots. However, the lack of concern for transit access has been problematic for all residents, especially those first coming here with no other means of getting around.
If this city is serious about long-term growth and sustainability, particularly attracting and retaining newcomers, then accessible, reliable public transit to all areas of the city must be a priority.
José Rivera, executive director
Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council