OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor. Please send your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. This letter is in response to a story about funding for Orillia Transit. You can read that story here.
The city’s proposed $10-million bus terminal is a significant investment — but how well will it improve service for bus users?
I have stood on West Street on many a bitter-cold morning waiting for a bus, and I would appreciate a warm indoor waiting room. But we have a public facility with seating and washrooms just steps away — the Opera House. No purpose-built bus terminal will have bus riders waiting inside any closer to their buses than the Opera House already is, if only it were staffed and opened for our use.
How will a new terminal improve the conditions on the streets where we wait for buses, often for much longer periods of time than downtown? As a bus user, my priorities are for the bus stops to be cleared of snow so I don’t have to stand on the road in snowstorms and poor visibility to catch my bus. I’d like the sidewalks cleared in a timely manner so I’m not trudging through deep snow to get to and from the bus. I’d like to see shelters along the routes where we wait in the cold, wind, and rain for the buses to come. I’d like to see heaters — the kind that can be activated by waiting bus riders for five minutes at a time — in shelters that serve a lot of bus users, such as by Nordia and other workplaces. I’d like to see the new West Ridge bus actually stop at Lakehead University rather than whiz on by so that my students who live in West Ridge do not have to take the southbound bus downtown, then transfer to another bus to take them back to West Ridge to get home — or walk 30 minutes on a poorly lit, rarely cleared, snow-deep trail. I’d like to see the service run longer hours so that shift workers can use it.
Where will this new bus terminal be? Unless the city is considering giving up one of its precious downtown parking lots, any purpose-bus terminal will be located a much further walk from the services and businesses downtown, like the public library, the banks, the post office. A high proportion of bus users are seniors, people with limited mobility, and parents with young children, often in strollers, as well as those of us getting to and from work, college, and university. Are you asking us to walk further than you expect any driver to be willing to walk? Are you asking us to wait at night and early in the morning in an isolated area without the passersby and safety of our high-travelled core intersection? Are you asking us to add another transfer to our trips?
Right now, buses from across the city bring residents to the city core in one trip, without transfers. Residents who live in the core can walk to the terminal to get on a bus in any direction — and with all the new housing being created downtown, there will be many more people living there. You may scoff — will the people buying condos downtown ever take the bus? But I am a downtown, home-owning professional and like many of my colleagues at Lakehead, I take the bus. It means our family does not need a second car. That’s a lot of money saved.
Transit services work well for their users and attract users when they are convenient — when they are close by and get us where we are going quickly and reliably. Unlike a recreation centre, a bus terminal is not a destination; it is just a means to an end. The goal should be good bus service.
Mayor Steve Clarke is quoted as saying we currently have a “Mickey Mouse” terminal, as if it is something to be ashamed of. It is not shameful to have a bus service that brings residents right to the core of our city. It is shameful that the city will not do the most basic service of clearing snow so that its bus stops can be used in the winter.