Regular bus service: what do you think?Saturday, March 23, 2013 by: SooToday.com Staff
Loyal SooToday.com reader Mark Brown sent us the following letter that raises some interesting questions worth thinking about.
Does Sault Ste. Marie have too much or too little regular bus service?
I'm sure people have seen a lot of city buses prowling along city streets with only a handful of passengers, but I'm equally sure that we've all seen buses racing around town that seemed almost completely full.
How much regular bus service is the right amount of bus service?
This is an important question because regular bus service is one of the services that city council could possibly cut to save Sault taxpayers a lot of money.
According to a Sault Transit Study
released to city council in January of 2012 it costs taxpayers approximately $5,800,000 every year to fund the current regular bus service.
The $5,800,000 cost to taxpayers is calculated by taking the reported $8,000,000 it cost to administrate, run, maintain and staff city busses in 2011 MINUS the $2,200,000 these buses generated in fares and bus passes in 2011.
That's a $5,800,000 cost to taxpayers for half-hour bus service between 6 am and 6 pm Monday to Friday, and one-hour bus service on evenings and weekends.
Is $5,800,000 a year too much to pay for city buses that travel around the Sault one-third full on average?
Should city council simply chop the Regular Transit budget by $3,000,000 and get the staff down at Sault Transit to start running a good, fulltime one-hour bus service? The routes are already in place, and Transit probably wouldn't need to buy the new city bus they are proposing which will cost $440,000.
Should city council simply keep things the way they are and have Sault taxpayer keep paying $5,800,000 every year for the current bus service?
Should city council add more money to the transit budget so Sault Transit can buy the new bus, raise our taxes, and potentially provide more convenient service to bus riders?
Or should city council do something else?
Is $5,800,000 a year too much or too little for Sault taxpayers to pay for the current regular city bus service?
What do you think?
MAC09 3/23/2013 12:56:57 PM Report
Has this person whos writing this ever needed to use city buses to go anywhere? I would rather pay the taxes then cut the buses down, seniors students disabled , non drivers blind deaf they all use the city bus! not to mention the people who have to take the bus to work,school, all of these people would be left to being late or so early. parents would be late for work as the bus schedule they know is gone , and daycare wont open early enough and work wont wait for them.
And yes I do drive! but I used to use the city bus for years, thru highschool and college.
Just Curious 3/23/2013 1:02:28 PM Report
I personnaly think they need to get rid of some of those huge boxcars they run with there being only one or two people in them most of the time. The runs could be operated with smaller busses and bring out the big boxes at peak times on certain routes,otherwise leave them parked. I walk all over on the hill with my dog at different times of the day and seldom see the busses more than half full,even at peak times..
KMF61MCF 3/23/2013 1:21:49 PM Report
Reduce the size of the Bus not the size of the service.
Tom_Bom 3/23/2013 1:23:01 PM Report
Well obviously the person who wrote this has never waited for an hour in the freezing cold winter for a bus. No we do not need to cut back the half hour service.
bml69 3/23/2013 1:30:22 PM Report
How about the guy who wrote this article goes and sucks a lemon???? Let me guess.... You drive a fancy car and get annoyed with big stupid empty buses driving around town wasting your 100 000 dollar a year salary..? Only a guess... ! Yeah. I ride one of those buses almost every day. and GUESS what ? Its almost always empty. I take the north street bus. and Its main purpose is for getting people to the hospital and I can't recall a single day where it was packed to the brim. (thank goodness). And guess what else? On saturdays and Sundays I have to go to work an hour early because my shift usually starts on the hour and its either I'm 5 minutes late- which will never happen- or I'm 55 minutes early! Boy do i ever love sitting there for an hour doing nothing. If i had a CAR like this bum chin I wouldn't have to wait would I ????! Oh and Taking the bus isn't exactly a party either. All winter you have to stand outside for 10- 15 minutes next to the road and wait while people whiz past you in their car with heat blowing on their hands and feet. This winter I even got Slush-ified by a drive by car. And I do this because i just FEEL like taking the bus. Nooo. I don't have a choice, thats why. Cant complain about the summer though. All Im saying is yes- there are people who think the bus is just a nuisance and no body takes it anymore and blah blah blah its a waste of their money, But its not like the people who TAKE the bus don't pay taxes? not only do they pay taxes like everyone else but they also pay 2.50 a ride, sometimes both ways (5$ a day) . I rest my case!
sunnie 3/23/2013 1:30:22 PM Report
I agree with Mac, I too would not like to see the the time changes for the city bus routes. Now the idea of smaller buses is not a bad idea either.
allieishere 3/23/2013 1:35:33 PM Report
bml69 you said it, very well done.
dad 3/23/2013 1:36:26 PM Report
How is this going to save the tax payers money its a welfare town daaaaaa are you going to send everybody a rebate cheque or is it going in your pocket all the Pencil Necks at city hall atta go you meat heads more screw ups make this town worse than it already is
dad 3/23/2013 1:44:11 PM Report
Maybe they should get rid of some of them pencils necks at city hall they have clue what makes this town tick your the ones stealing all our tax dollars not the city buses poeple need buse's to get around town on time not an hour late maybe they should take a cut in wages for all there stupid idea's man get a grip
shju 3/23/2013 1:45:31 PM Report
5m for a year is nothing. Id like to know where the other 95m is going. Is there a way to see a financial breakdown of the entire city's expenses? I imagine it would be public knowledge. Where would one get this budget report?
silvergirl77 3/23/2013 1:53:50 PM Report
You know what will happen??? They'll cut back bus services to hourly runs, increase the bus fare and then raise our taxes anyways. Plus all the big wigs in city hall will get raises and us tax payers will be paying the bill anyways. I don't even know why the city even bothers asking for our opinions. They'll do what they want anyways and raise our taxes with it.
opinionated 3/23/2013 2:20:07 PM Report
City transit is an extremely difficult thing to run for any city, but is necessary! I don't think ANY city runs transit at a profit, for one. And two - in order to provide the service so people will use it they have to run all the time. The busses in town are full at peak times, and that's what compensates for the off peak times.
I do agree with the smaller bus thing to a point - and we do have several smaller busses, but then if you're using two busses for one route depending on the time of the day, really, you're spending a nickel to save a penny. Or should it be a dime to save a nickle now?
Nimrod 3/23/2013 3:28:42 PM Report
City transit has one of the lowest payback on fares in the province. Less than twenty percent. Raise the fares to provide a thirty percent payback at least!
you know 3/23/2013 3:42:37 PM Report
how about looking at the pay $50k a year to drive a bus really.........twice as much as a school bus driver
Just Curious 3/23/2013 4:02:39 PM Report
Opionated;at peak times you could run two smaller busses one behind the other like other centres do and then park the spare one,send the driver home. Either way,almost half a mill for a bus is ridiculous. You could buy a 1/2 dozen smaller units for that much money and get way better service out of them. That comunity bus/race car that runs all over hell with few passengers could be dropped anytime. It's never full...
happy camper 3/23/2013 4:09:48 PM Report
ThinkAgain 3/23/2013 5:29:40 PM Report
Isn't this the job for our over paid CAO.
Joe should step up to the plate and show he does his job.
Sault_ont 3/23/2013 6:17:21 PM Report
from Morning till 11:45pm at night ithink are buses should be running every 15 min, like out in calgary every 15 or 10 min bus comes and you can go where ever and have a bus fro occasions like when ever there is a pancake breakfast going on cause an 80 year old or a 90 year old isnt going to walk from the seniors building downtown all the way to fifth line for all you can eat pancakes.
kamen 3/23/2013 6:19:37 PM Report
The buses need to be run on the half hour on weekends, we need at least one more bus in the east end. It would be nice to have a bus that goes to goulais and at least point de chenes. I haven't been to the beach in 3 years because I don't have a vehicle. On weekends I have to catch the bus on the hour meaning I am 1/2 hour early for work. If I catch the one after that I am 15-20 mins late for work, do you know how much that sucks in the middle of winter when you have to stand outside work for a half hour in the freezing cold.....it's flipping miserable.
Summer7 3/23/2013 6:56:31 PM Report
The step up into the city transit during winter months is over a foot high. Snow and ice conditions cause the high step problem. Please rectify this situation at least at main bust stops. One fall may mean a permanent Davey Home stay.
Increase bus users by clearing snow and ice away from bus stops so we can get on the bus properly.
Wisenheimer 3/23/2013 7:22:15 PM Report
The community bus runs up and down my street 20 some round trips a week ... nary a passenger on board. It goes to a politically correct neighbourhood. And still no passengers!
cardy_cakes 3/23/2013 7:36:33 PM Report
The person who wrote this obviously doesn't need public transportation. I'm not sure if many of you are aware of this, but our buses are not NEARLY running enough. They don't even run late enough so that the women and men working at bars and other businesses until late in the night can get home safely without shelling out most of their tips from the night for a cab. Also, the men and women working at Essar (the glue of Sault Ste. Marie) cannot catch a bus to work for a day shift starting at 6am. There is a 6 hour gap of affordable public transportation, which are the scariest hours for walking. I don't know about you, but I would never walk down queen, Wellington, or Albert between the hours of 1 and 5am. But then again I've never had to. In conclusion, the half hour buses between 6am and 6pm is not the issue at hand, the issue is round the clock accessibility.
_kate_ 3/23/2013 8:09:23 PM Report
I would love to take the bus to work occasionally, but the bus routes simply aren't compatible with my needs. I can walk to work (which takes 45 minutes, give or take) in the same amount of time it would take to catch a bus... and then I STILL have to walk a sizable distance anyway. Not worth my time and money, and at least I get exercise walking.
I've thought quite a bit about how the buses could be better, but there doesn't seem to be a single answer. Perhaps the routes need some overhauling. Regardless, money is an issue.
bus 3/23/2013 8:12:40 PM Report
Cut sunday service and community busses. use the money saved to add another route that serves all over the city. on the hour from 6-6. it would be a community bus somewhat but would be geared towards everyone, not geared to only seniors. also, make para bus service more available. and person 70+ should be qualified to use it, rather then making them go to the doctor to get a note. anyone below 70 shpuld have to still get a note from the doctor.
Many municipalities in ontario and canada do not have sunday service. some cities only offer an east and west route after 6pm. there are so many options to lower the costs. they just have to see what others are doing. sometimes, this city tries so hard to be "different" from other cities that it forgets that other cities have done the dirty work and all we have to do is copy it.
having specialized routes from queen and east street at 2:15 am on fridays and saturdays heading east and west would generate money just from the drunk people getting on the busses. charge 5 bucks a person, its still cheaper than a cab. seeing as a cab from top hat to shannon road costs about 15 bucks.
so many simple things to do, but no brains in this city to do it.
Sault_ont 3/23/2013 8:25:01 PM Report
From Monday to Friday and the weekends from Morning till 11:45pm night are buses should be running every 15 min so then people can get to where they are going to so then your not waiting for the bus for a whole hour and freezing in the winter time out in calgary the run every 15 min
GuitarHero99 3/24/2013 2:44:09 AM Report
Here's the answer.. it's because of the ridiculous bus fare. I remember riding the bus for $1.50. Now, it's over 2 bucks.
Yodad 3/24/2013 5:00:23 AM Report
Start the bus service later, go to 1/2 hour for a part of the day (the busiest). I am out running each morning at 6:00. I have seen maybe 1 person on the bus in the morning for the past year. I run through 3 different bus routes, see about 6 buses every morning. Ridiculous if you ask me. Reduce areas served by the huge, empty buses.
Peter D. 3/24/2013 8:28:46 AM Report
We all see the 40 passenger busses drive around town with one or no passengers on board. Why not use smaller busses, or even vans. Not only would that save gas, but it wouldn't tie up traffic as much on Queen St. Did you ever get caught behind two busses that are ahead of schedule going to the terminal. They make sure they hit every yellow light just to loose some time.
Wobbler 3/24/2013 8:56:46 AM Report
Yup, take away half hour service, the Sunday bus, raise the prices, buy smaller buses (which will cost millions of dollars), raise the fare, etc. etc. All this coming from people who don't even use the transit system!
Yup, take this all away from people with minimum paying jobs, seniors, the disabled, people who are on fixed incomes, students and those who don't have their own vehicles!
Yup, maybe the city should be looking at why more people don't use the buses and make the changes necessary to get more ridership. Maybe some incentives to promote new ridership and a move to improve hours of operation would help. Then there is always making it mandatory for "ALL" divers to be pleasant to their passengers, drive with a lighter foot on the gas and brake pedals, as well as being more diligent in making sure the handicapped and elderly have use of the front seats allotted for them and ejecting rude and obnoxious people as soon as possible.
Kudos to the pleasant and courteous drivers we do have!! Thank you to the drivers who drive with their passenger's safety and well being in mind! These drivers should be recognized more often!!!
Yes, there needs to be improvement in our transit system, but there should be open minds and concern, as well as financial reasons in place to make these changes effectively.
HollieB 3/24/2013 9:07:01 AM Report
What bugs me is that they forget that a lot of people rely on the city bus for work purposes... I work and I have a guaranteed shift at least one day during the weekend. If you cut the early buses as proposed I wouldn't be able to work, therefore I don't pay taxes and no money in the city or province's pocket. Take a picture the service is fine the way it is just really expensive.
TML04 3/24/2013 9:34:29 AM Report
What a wide range of opinions we all have on this topic.
I, myself have not used the transit services of this city in many years, but as a student and a young adult I did. It was my means of getting to and from work/ school/ etc. so for those who've made comments regarding how you're either really early or late for work, or having to deal with the weather, I can relate.
I do have family members that rely on transit, mainly para bus. Yes, they did have to get medical documentation to be on their client list but this is what this service is for.The comment about the fare being too high and remembering when it was $1.50. So do I, that was in 1999 the year I graduated and bought my first vehicle. Sudbury's current fare is $2.80 and North Bay will be at $2.75 as of April 1, 2013 so the $2.50 is pretty fair with the rest of the north.
$50k a year? Is that what a driver makes (double a school bus driver)? Don't even see how or why someone would try to compare those 2 positions. Both are very responsible jobs but a part time job (194 school days) isn't gonna earn you the same income.
I agree with smaller buses (vans would never work, although you do see Cedar Heights route sometimes using one). Only prob with this is there is no way to predict on an hourly basis if the bus is gonna be empty/ half full/ full. Now what happens when the bus is too full and those people that are waiting for the bus at their stop are refused because there is no room? Leave the buses they way they are, get newer ones, and add another route or 2. Look at the budget for the buses then and make changes if necessary. The community bus could be eliminated. Seems like it's targeted more to the elderly/ disabled to get them closer to frequented areas (ie. walmart) Take it off the road and put another para bus in it's place. This way when the para bus is moving, it's going from or to pick up a client.
If anything, put a wage freeze on our mayor and council. If they claim that they need more money for the job that they do/ don't do why would you have ran in the first place? I've never heard of someone applying for a job that they didn't feel the salary was adequate. Mayor Deb wants to hire a permanent Deputy to help her out. Again, can't handle the job... don't apply.
AceOfBass 3/24/2013 9:36:08 AM Report
Very interesting comments about our transit service.I seldom use the transit as it does not suit my needs at this time.
I have noticed the large empty buses on routes.
Would reducing the service to an hour help probably not.Then again what why I know I don't use the service.
Hiring a transit consultant just costs more money.The transit system operators know what needs to be done lets let them tweak the system.
Really?? 3/24/2013 10:03:20 AM Report
Mark Brown??? Is this the same clown that owns his own cab??? Hmmmm, wouldn't less bus service possibly open up more potential cab fares??? Yeah, a real concerned citizen there!! More like a moron trying to make more money for himself!!
AceOfBass 3/24/2013 10:12:02 AM Report
The solution is to outsource the transit service to a private company.
crashed13 3/24/2013 10:45:30 AM Report
Its a tricky thing about scheduling also.
There is a Monday to Friday bus at 8am I see with standing room only but the 730am before it and 830am after it are almost empty.
Wobbler 3/24/2013 1:45:07 PM Report
"We all see the 40 passenger busses drive around town with one or no passengers on board."
Maybe you should go to the city bus terminal every half hour on the quarter hour and count how many buses are there. There are 9 at the terminal and another 9 out on the routes. That makes 18 buses on the road during the day and 9 in the evenings and weekends. Then there are the 2 community buses...... Monday to Friday, so that makes it 9 to a maximum of 20 buses out on he roads. Far from the 40 you profess to see driving around town.
My numbers may not be exact, but you get the point I am sure.
I have a suggestion to all the nay sayers about the buses.............get out and ride them!!!!! You will get exercise walking to and from the bus stops, you would save money on gas, insurance and upkeep on your vehicle and you will help to minimize air pollution.
Parents: Instead of being your pre- teen's and teen's personal taxi service, buy them a monthly bus pass and they can get almost anywhere they want on a bus. A bus pass will cost you less than the many tanks of gas you use during a month.
I would like to challenge our Mayor, CEO, city councilors, transit management and their employees to park their vehicles for a month and use our transit system every day. I am sure their eyes will be opened quite a bit after doing this.
Mark Brown 3/24/2013 1:48:01 PM Report
Thanks for all the input. Clearly, if things are going to change it will require leadership from city council.
One thing's for sure, Sault Transit staff are NOT going to say, "please give us LESS money", nor will they say, "please give us MORE money" other than for bus replacements. So our regular bus service will stay pretty much the same until city council makes a move to increase or decrease the Regular Transit budget. Letting your councilor know what you want helps them get you what you want. The squeaky wheel gets the oil.
It's interesting to note that $3,000,000 could be freed up for a lot of the improvements recommended by the posters above simply by changing the current regular bus system to fulltime one-hour service. But, as we've heard here, that would make using the bus much less convenient for people who regularly have to get to work and/or daycare at specific times.
I'm pretty sure smaller buses are not an option at this point since Sault Transit purchased 4 new fullsize buses just last year for $2,000,000. The one proposed for purchase in this year's budget will be #5.
It seems, by the lack of response from non-bus-using taxpayers, that each and every household doesn't mind paying the extra $100 in property tax for weekday half-hour bus service instead of replacing it with fulltime one-hour bus service. Go figure?
Thanks again for all of your input.
mawk 3/24/2013 2:17:10 PM Report
“To provide safe, efficient and environmentally friendly public transportation services that
support the economic vitality, growth, environmental sustainability, and health of the community.”
This is the mandate of the Sault Transit System; reducing service does not support this mandate but undermines it completely.
Also in the Soo many of the bus users are the young and elderly, they should never have to wait up to an hour on the street in the cold if a bus is missed.
Mark Brown 3/24/2013 4:00:49 PM Report
Some might say that having buses that travel around less than one-third full on average is neither "efficient", nor "environmentally freindly" mawk. Those same people might say that certain service reductions that reduce the amount of gas used, and reduce the pollutants emitted, and that fill our buses with more riders are service reductions that actually SUPPORT the Sault Transit mandate.
Good point about missed buses mawk. It is a concern for many of us even with the current bus service.
Bus times should be POSTED on all bus stops so that people know when their bus will arrive, and, further, all buses should ALWAYS arrive NO EARLIER than each bus stop's POSTED time so people don't miss their bus. POSTING times at all bus stops would not only be better for bus riders it would also be consistent with a safe, EFFECTIVE bus service. Why don't we post arrival times at bus stops mawk?
Maybe city council will show some leadership on this issue.
TML04 3/24/2013 4:20:07 PM Report
First and foremost... Mr. Mark Brown.. Tell me the last time that our city purchased a brand new bus? Over the past few yrs we've (City of SSM) have brought in a few new buses (Used from other cities) but "new" to us. (Oh sorry we purchased a brand new para bus this year at what price? City of SSM site doesn't disclose)
So, on that note... Council says that our citizens aren't worthy of new things? Come on... Expenses at $5mil+ and only a revenue of $2.2mil as you quote.. Only costs a mere $2.50 for a one way ride.. so $5.00 return.. What's the min charge for a cab? I dunno.. What I do know is that is a far cry from what the cabs are allowed to charge now as soon as you get in.(passed my council)
We live in a smaller town in Ont. and for those people out there that need these services and can't afford lots...
My opinion says... by all means... keep the prices and fares down.
Always about the budget for some citizens of this city... Did anybody do anything when Joe Fratesi created his own job/ position? Nope.... are we gonna do anything when Mayor Deb does the same for herself? I hope...
mous860 3/24/2013 5:20:58 PM Report
i think the buses should run on the half hour monday through saturday. People that work all week do most of their shopping on Saturdays and having to wait an hour is too long, especially when it's cold and snowing.
R0FL0L 3/24/2013 6:34:56 PM Report
I did not read all the responses. So I apologies if I repeat something already said.
I do have a car and can get wherever I want and whenever I want BUT I would love to use the bus more often.
If you look the $5.8 Mill and think a little about it. This is $15890.41/day for 75000 people of Sault Ste Marie, this comes to $0.21/ person per day. Is this too much for this important service?? (I am sure you = the writer of this tidbit spends more at Timmi's/ day) How many are there that have NO choice. Taxi fare is almost prohibitive, especially if they have to stop at every Light on your way or you use it during the "high traffic" time in the Sault.
Not to mention that waiting 1/2 hour is already too long and often you don't know if the bus is still coming or if it already rushed by your stop. You have to be there 1o minutes before the time.
What we need is an improvement and an increase in the bus service. Increased frequency, more transfer stations. Right now 3 buses follow one another every 1/2 hour down Queen street.
If you have to/ want to go to the Box-stores or, never mind, to the hospital from the east end (Kohler, Simpson, Pine, Church etc.) you have to go first to Dennis. It takes 1 hour for 5-8km distance. I am sure it is the same from the west end(if not worse)
Improve this service and you ridership goes up and the cost for the Taxpayers goes down.
Who is this person? Who wants to cut this essential service to so many people. Not to mention that the environment would benefit from an increase in service = more people using the bus and the traffic congestion could go down.
We need this service improved!!!
LMF32 3/25/2013 11:07:56 AM Report
I would have to say that I agree with a lot of the comments here .What do you mean cut back on this service because buses are not full well that got to do with the current service who wants wait a half hour or even better that lovely hour service on weekends.5M is not the issue what tax payer should be upset is why is the service so lame and we still dishing out 5M .I use the trasit sysytem here everyday to go to work come home if you cut the half hour service that means that I would have to catch a earlier bus I'm not sure about you all I don't want to be a work a hour before I start.I already work 50hrs plus a week over top of that I think buses should run later then 11:45 pm speacialy on Fri Sat till a least 1:45am this would help.I thinks cut are just easy way out let's improve this service instead
rcssm69 3/25/2013 11:09:02 AM Report
Buying accessible buses is not a choice! It's been mandated by the Government that facilities such as these be 100% accessible by the year 2025. This is why we need new low floor buses and we need them fast!
City bus service is too important, and the negative comments made in this forum are from non-users that don't rely on Transit for getting to their jobs, shopping needs, etc...
It may sound like a lot, but the money spent on Transit is negligible compared to the benefit that the people in this City get from this service!
They do make more than school bus drivers because they work 10 hours a day! Not 3!!!
If it could be out-sourced, don't you think that some other Cities would have done it by now, since according to some posters, the Sault is so far behind than every other City???
Vans??? Let's be serious!
Community Bus is only used by the elderly??? Duhhh!!!
Leave this important service alone!!! This Ratepayers Group is nothing but a bunch of instigators, blaming society for all of their problems!
rcssm69 3/25/2013 11:15:16 AM Report
...and bus service to Goulais and Point des Chenes??? You're going to blame Transit for not going to the beach in three years??? LOL LOL LOL