Remember the ETS Growth Strategy and Planning Review from last summer? If not, it’s still available online.
On the whole, it laid out a pretty impressive plan: Add more than 300 buses, extend service hours, increase peak frequencies to every 10 minutes on major routes, and increase ridership by 50 per cent. Riders were to see this within five — now four — years.
The problem with the plan is it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. Worse yet, it sounds like it never was: Last week’s Transportation and Public Works committee meeting was full of the kind of honesty missing from last year’s presentation.
After the severely watered-down plan was presented, Transportation Manager Bob Boutilier admitted the previously proposed improvements aren’t going to happen any time soon.
Apparently, it was only a “what if money was no object” exercise conducted during a boom year.
Mayor Stephen Mandel made it “clear that (the Growth Strategy) is not on the table,” but it was Coun. Amarjeet Sohi who summed it up best by pointing out that the city is “throwing the Growth Strategy into the garbage bin because (it) can’t afford it.”
When reviewing the new plan, councillors asked if they were creating a standard they would have to finance when budget time comes around. Lucky for them, the new document was specifically created as a guideline — not a standard — so they won’t have to follow through on it either.
The new strategy is quite clear: Overloadings are to be dealt with by cutting service in other areas. Instead of slightly lengthening ETS’s pitiful overnight service, some runs on so-called late night routes (like the 128) might even be cut.
Low ridership routes may also see their frequencies reduced. Of course, as Boutilier said, “Ultimately, you get to that point where there’s only one bus running on the route every hour and a half, and at that point you cut it.”
Perhaps riders are to be thankful for any relief at all — council was told that, legally speaking, “you can stuff that bus and it’s still acceptable.” Damage to the bus would probably be a concern, but apparently the suspension can easily handle 75 passengers.
So, all together, the only real priority for the next year is the LRT to Southgate and its associated feeder buses. As for significant service improvements, don’t count on any.