Transit crisis

It’s 8-ish a.m. on a Tuesday. Over the span of 30 minutes, three buses at full capacity (all separate routes) slow down beside a bus stop just long enough to see the half-dozen people wanting to board, before speeding away, leaving stranded students, seniors, mamas and babies without the means to travel to their destinations on time. Okay, the stop is a 10-minute walk to the Dalhousie LRT station, so for some travellers this means crisis averted– take the train and miss only half of class or half an hour of work. But throw in factors such as rain, snow, hail, double-digit below-zero temperatures, in addition to the many bus stops lacking shelter, and the inconveniences begin to multiply.

With the third-largest municipal population in Canada, a landmass exceeding both Toronto and New York City, nearly 30,000 students attending the University of Calgary and, according to the Canadian Press, a 1.5 million rider increase in the past year, efficient public transportation is without a doubt vital in Calgary. Calgary Transit operates 160 bus routes and boasts over 800 buses, but these numbers mean nothing to those getting the short end of the stick simply because their geographic situation places them in the “too bad you couldn’t get on sooner, you’ll just have to wait for the next available bus” category.

There are, in fact, basic and effective measures taken by other major Canadian transit systems that could be applied in order to curb this issue. One strategy is counting. As if high travel times aren’t already obvious enough, transit employees could record the number of people boarding and exiting the bus at various stops throughout the day on any given route. After completion of the counting process, higher capacity buses and more frequent bus times could be implemented accordingly.

Another common complaint regarding the transit system in Calgary is that it doesn’t run late enough. A “zone” service currently operating in towns such as Oakville, Ontario is a potential solution. The city would be divided into multiple zones and corresponding buses running past midnight would drop off riders at designated transit stops or as close to the rider’s home as possible. This could greatly prevent potential incidents of assault on solo travellers and reduce drinking and driving.

As these transit improvements don’t seem to be in any rush to develop, those that need to take the bus will have to plan around transit’s shortcomings.