So it is my understanding that transit fares are going up 21% in Regina, which breaks down to a $0.25 per person increase to $2.75 from $2.50. The complete plan would be to roll out increases by $0.25 until the cost of a bus ride is $3.25. Other urban centres such as Toronto target $3.00 as a transit cost, Calgary is also $3.00, Edmonton costs $3.20, with Halifax and Fredericton coming in at $2.25 each.
When every nickel counts to make ends meet each and every month for some people this is a burden, not the quarter itself but the trips to the grocery story, trips downtown, trips to the doctor, trips to school or university, trips to the job and if you can’t get your business done fast enough this cost gets multiplied by two. This situation is made worse if you are on a limited or fixed income as many riders may be, either as students, seniors, the working poor, low-income earners or social assistance recipients.
Many people are looking to the stadium for the reasoning behind this increase but it should be noted that Regina riders have not seen a fare increase since 2010 in spite of increasing costs to transit operations. Fuel costs have gone up as many of us are aware, Transit bus drivers have received an 8.5% wage increase over three years from 2013, and Regina Transit is budgeting $11.3 million in maintaining and upgrading transit, fire and civic vehicles (including buses). Finally the last influx of federal monies was back in 2008 with $6-million coming from federal coffers to Regina for new bus purchases and other upgrades.
Other urban centres have tackled this issue in a variety of ways but keep in mind the tax base is usually larger, the service spread out over different systems (subways, trolley’s, buses etc), and maybe even corporate sponsorship on top of advertising. For example here in Canada both Montreal and York have contracted aspects of their transit services out to corporate services. Some centres offer value added services such as free Wi-Fi on selected routes – a service I think would be fantastic here in Regina. Let me tell you why.
Regina is already is already a leading player in Wi-Fi connection technology thanks to the investments of Sasktel, and while it is true that Saskatchewan! Connected network has been turned off there are still plans in the works to continue to offer Wi-Fi at select locations such as Mosaic Stadium, and Victoria Park. Many other urban centres such as Calgary, Metro Vancouver, Saint John and Edmonton have understood the importance of connectivity to their citizens and have worked to ensure this access while on transit.
The City of Calgary employs a system of hotspots and registering accounts, accounts which receive 500MB of monthly data thus limiting possible abuse of the system. Abuse that caused the City of Saint John to pull the plug on its free Wi-Fi this year due to the increasing costs of streaming or downloading large files causing strain on the system. Other centres such as Vancouver turn to corporate sponsorship to offer free Wi-Fi on select buses. Perhaps, a corporate sponsor is needed here in Regina – Sasktel? Bell? Rodgers?
Regina transit riders would benefit greatly from being able to access free Wi-Fi during their commutes, especially high school and university students who may need to email their professors, check their Facebook while traveling, or check for connecting buses for trip planning. In an era of declining ridership and declining revenue I hope that Regina Transit is able to think outside the box and offer amenities that will improve the rider’s experience and encourage more usage with more reasons to ride.
I think simply boiling the issue down to an increase in fare – is not fair.
– Bill Stevenson, Bills Right On Blog!