Some Calgary Transit riders will face reduced or eliminated service this month. A progressive city should be growing its public transit, not reducing it — but we did ask for this in a roundabout way when we demanded lower property taxes.
I get it — I don’t like paying taxes, my budget is tight and, frankly, I think a good portion of our tax dollars are wasted. Public transit should not have been put on the chopping block though. There was $20 million taken out of the city’s 2010 budget ($1.2 million of that was taken from Calgary Transit) in order to save the typical household just $4.50 per month.
It doesn’t seem like that great a savings when you think of what we’re losing.
Later this month, 10 city bus routes will be altered or cut. It’s part of a reduction of 21,500 service hours. The routes Calgary Transit sacrificed are underused, so perhaps it’s a good move — but the money saved should be redirected to increase service on well-used routes or to new areas.
Despite decreased service, fares increased this year with an adult ticket jumping to $2.75 from $2.50.
It all seems backwards to me — cutting essential services, especially to low- and middle-income earners, yet increasing fees for those reduced services during a time when said services are needed most.
But the decision makers here aren’t unique in how the pencils are sharpened during an economic downturn.
Transportation for America reported that nearly 90 per cent of transit agencies in the U.S. had raised fares or cut service in 2009. Similarly, the American Public Transportation Association found 80 per cent of transit agencies were dealing with flat or declining revenue from state and local governments.
But while transit cuts are commonplace during economic hard times, not everyone simply accepts them.
Toronto Mayor David Miller has been a vocal opponent of Ontario provincial plans to cut $4 billion from the Transit City project. He gets points for creativity in his battle using whatever tactics necessary, including occupying Toronto subway’s public announcement system to encourage riders to pressure the premier to restore the funding for rapid transit in the city.
It’s a battle worth fighting. Public transit produces greater mobility (especially for low-income earners), reduced traffic congestion, less oil consumption, cleaner air and, in my opinion, more vibrant and sustainable cities. Cutting service is simply short-sighted.
Adrienne Beattie is a Calgary-born writer who has covered urban issues since 2001 and has an English degree from the University of Calgary.