Personal Experience and Policy Approach
Transportation is not a one size fits all situation. We need to have a balance of options depending on people’s needs, but safety, reliability and accessibility should be at the forefront of all of them. Overall the goal should be to move people towards environmentally sustainable transportation such as public transit and cycling and rely less on fossil fuels. However, many different jobs require traveling with large amounts of materials or devices, we are still in the early stages of accessibility adherence for some disabilities and while our transit system is still lacking, we need to make sure that we aren’t creating hardships on residents who need cars and parking. I can’t personally use public transit due to my environmental sensitivities but I would love to be able to. I am an avid cyclist and would love more walkable and bikeable commerce options so I could rely less on my car. I would like to divert large trucks to the highways around Guelph so that the city is not being used as a thoroughfare and increase our public transit options.
Changes for Guelph Transit and Priority Issue
A grid system that includes bus and carpool lanes on our four lane streets as well as express buses would increase ridership. More riders would allow for us to lower the cost of taking the bus. Ensuring all bus stops are accessible to all riders and there are safe ways to cross the street near all stops would benefit everyone. A collaboration with the provincial government for secondary school students living within the city, to use city buses instead of school buses and receive free bus passes via provincial funding would lessen traffic congestion and give Guelph’s youth some freedom of movement to enjoy programs throughout the city. This additional funding would help towards implementing the grid system and be the initial boost to ridership needed to sustain it.
Reliability is very important in transit. People need to get to work, school and appointments on time. If we absorbed secondary school bus riders into the city system, we could hire the school bus drivers and have more coverage for sick days.
I would have the transit team ensure all bus stops have accessible paths to the sidewalks and that all transit stops are close to crosswalks or traffic lights for riders to cross the street. Create a fragrance/scent-free policy for riders and begin an awareness campaign for riders educating them on what that entails. Ensure that any digital systems we interact with can be accessed by riders who use assistive technologies. Provide multiple language instructions for routes and have proper maps for route changes. I would have the transit team sit down for a full review of the system led by Guelph’s Accessibility Advisory Council and consider the feedback action items rather than suggestions. Create a priority issues list for upgrades that prevent disabled riders from accessing the service. This is not only the right thing to do, but not doing it will quickly become a legal liability. We have had 20 years of notice this was coming so there is no excuse.
It’s impossible to say whether or not some areas would be popular if there was a cheap and easy way to get there that didn’t require parking. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy if we only focus on current high frequency areas. I believe that if we focus on coverage, ridership will increase. We can always scale back on routes if they are not used later.
Transit Equity and Transfer Times
Transit is an incredibly important part of creating community equity. Ensuring we have options so that all riders can use the system should be a priority for Guelph.
An additional thought that has always irritated me. As a transit user most of my life I have never understood the concept of limiting transfers or putting hour limits on transfers. This greatly impacts families. If you have to drop off your child at daycare/school before work. There is a high probability that you will have to pay another fare before you end to get to your place of work. This task traditionally falls on mothers or single parents, those who may already be at a disadvantage financially.
I would work with our surrounding municipalities like Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, Fergus, Elora and Rockwood to make a plan for electric commuter bus transit so that we could create a network for people not only to get from home to work and back, but also be local tourists on the weekend. When I lived in San Francisco, the larger tech companies like Apple (where I worked) hired Greyhound style bus companies to shuttle employees back and forth during common daytime work hours. I’m confident that if we worked together with the neighbouring cities, and businesses, we could do something similar, which would lessen traffic congestion, emissions and take away the stress of having to constantly drive up to two hours a day. I know I appreciated being able to use my commute to work on projects, which cut down on the time I needed to be in the office. Everyone should have that opportunity.
More on my Transit Values
Transit Action Alliance Guelph sent all the candidates a questionnaire. Very few filled it out. Here are a few of my answers from the questionnaire. You can see the full version with yes and no answers here: https://taaguelph.com/2022/09/15/2022-transit-survey-erin-caton-ward-1-candidate/
Adam Donaldson also asked about transit in his candidate questionnaire. You can see my full interview here: https://guelphpolitico.ca/2022/08/22/candidate-questionnaire-erin-caton-ward-1-councillor/