August 21st, 2017

Senior says transit changes a real burden


By Gillian Slade on August 12, 2017.

Joan Ray is distraught at the changes to the transit system that she depends on entirely to get around town.--NEWS PHOTO GILLIAN SLADE


gslade@medicinehatnews.com 
@MHNGillianSlade

Changes to public transit announced this week have turned one senior’s world upside down.

“The people who made these changes do not ride the buses. That means they do not have any understanding of what transit users need,” said a tearful Joan Ray, 80. “The government is always wasting money on ‘experts’ when they should have just spoken to the users.”

Ray has depended on the bus service several times a week for the past 12 years. She was under the impression changes would be presented to the public at some point for feedback and tweaking, if necessary, before implementation.

Ray says nobody from the city ever got on a bus and asked passengers what changes they would like to see.

Feedback collected over the past few years was taken into consideration in the development of the new route,s and focus groups were consulted, said Simon Amos, manager community access.

“The implementation of the new routes and schedules will be evaluated in the coming months,” said Amos. “Future improvements to the Transit System will take into consideration transit industry service standards, financial feasibility and feedback from the public and transit staff.”

There was comfort for Ray in knowing all the buses arrived at the same time at the downtown terminal. That this terminal will no longer be used feels almost overwhelming, she says. The terminal had a washroom. There are warm enclosures to provide shelter from the rain, wind and wintery conditions. Ray is really worried about what protection there will be for passengers switching to other routes under the new system.

“Shelters will be placed at the 26 connection points providing protection from the elements over time,” said Amos. “Some are already in place, others will be moved from existing locations and some will be new.”

Because there are more direct routes and shorter ride times there will be reduced need for a serviced terminal, said Amos. There were operating costs for the terminal including lighting, heating, maintenance and security among other things.

Changes to the system are expected to save $650,000 a year in operating costs.

“The exact cost of placing the shelters at all of the connection points is not yet known,” said Amos.

One route Ray uses frequently may actually cut her travel time in half when the new system starts on Sept. 5. That is no comfort, she says. At her age she has plenty of time.

For Ray it feels overwhelming to learn all the new routes. When she tried the helpline number for information a recording simply asked what extension she wanted. The city said the number provided to media earlier in the week was incorrect. The correct number is 403-525-8900.

The city is holding public information sessions to help users understand the new routes.

The assertion that there have been no changes to special transit is also incorrect, said Ray, whose husband has to use that service. When he was booking the service recently he was told it would be a five-hour wait to return home. It has become much more difficult to book when you need it. Ray says she understands the fleet has been reduced by two buses.

Public information sessions:

Aug. 16 — FLC — noon to 4 p.m.; Aug. 19 — Co-op mall — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Aug. 23 — hospital — 9 a.m. to noon; Aug. 26 — Medicine Hat Mall — 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Aug. 29 — Co-op mall — 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Aug. 30 — hospital — 9 a.m. to noon; Sept. 5 — Esplanade — 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Routes in detail are online at: https://www.medicinehat.ca/government/departments/medicine-hat-transit

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