As someone who has noticed the frequently empty or almost empty transit buses in Vernon, and as a resident of a part of Vernon which has no transit service, the article entitled “Transit on city’s radar” in the May 13 Morning Star caught my eye.
Empty buses do not meet the lofty goals on the city’s website of reducing greenhouse gases and lowering infrastructure requirements for roads.
The article reported Coun. Juliette Cunningham as stating that, “A lot of people would like to use it but a lack of frequency makes it difficult,” to which Coun. Scott Anderson responded that, “We have been building it for years and they haven’t come.”
Both of these statements are truthful. In order for transit to appeal to users, it must offer frequent service and plenty of routes to take riders where they want to go.
However, creating a transit system that would be attractive to riders, in terms of frequency and routes, in small and geographically dispersed Vernon could be very, perhaps prohibitively, expensive.
Transit has to be affordable. Fares paid by riders repay only a portion of the cost, so taxpayers are on the hook for the remainder.
What we have now costs the taxpayers of Greater Vernon, excluding Handi-Dart, $2.84 million in 2016, with $1.35 million of provincial subsidies. And apparently that is inadequate.
Recall the trains in Greece, which reportedly cost so much to operate that taxis for its passengers would have cost less.
Have ways of providing the necessary services in different ways been evaluated? What about filling the need using a concept like Uber? Or using some of the money currently spent on transit to build safe bicycle routes?
These are off-the-wall ideas, but perhaps outside-the-box thinking can come up with fresh, more effective, approaches.
Cunningham stated that there are people who rely on transit as their only way to get around. Excluding Handi-Dart, what proportion of passengers comprise this group and what, exactly, is their need? Is bus transit the best method to meet that need?
Isn’t it conceivable that money allocated for that facet of transit might be better spent elsewhere, perhaps on some other service for the disadvantaged or even for more general purposes such as infrastructure funding?
If current transit is inadequate, how expansive does it need to be? What are we willing to sacrifice in order to pay for it, and what alternatives exist? I believe that transit in Vernon could use a fresh examination.
Doing more of what isn’t working very well is rarely a good idea.