Vision of transit service latest in City’s Integrated Movement Study

Red Deer is getting to the size where an increasing number of public transit options are opening up, said the president of Canadian Urban Transit Association last week (CUTA).

“Red Deer is pushing 100,000 people, and that size offers some real opportunities,” said Michael Roschlau during a session called Lights, Camera, Transit held Feb. 16 at City Centre Stage. Hosted by the City of Red Deer, the event was part of the ongoing Integrated Movement Study which included the Walkability Road Show and the Ross Street Experiment last fall.

“I’m just blown away by the initiative the City has undertaken to try and find this new future of integrated mobility,” he said to a gathering of about 80. “It represents a visionary approach.”

He said several other Canadian municipalities of similar size have bus route which make stops every 15 minutes, ideally all day.

“Lots of studies have shown that 15 minutes is the threshold that people are prepared to go out to a bus stop and risk waiting the average seven to eight minutes if they don’t know when the bus is coming,” he said.

Kevin Joll, transit manager, said the City may not quite be at the point where stops every 15 minutes may be feasible at this point.

“One of the projects we’d like to look at over the next five years is increased frequency,” he said. “We don’t think we could afford every 15 minutes, so we were going to shoot for 20 and do that at just peak times,” he said.

“That’s really dependant on our ability, in tough economic times, to fund that kind of increase in service.

“We’ve developed what I say is a very stable, usable 30 minute frequency which is a good solid foundation,” he said. “It’s still a really good service in Red Deer, for the size of the City.”

As for public transit ridership in general in Red Deer, there have been significant increases, he said.

From 2004, when expansions were made to the routes systems, ridership has jumped about 36%, he said. In 2010 there was a slight dip, but overall usage continues to grow.

“There have been some really positive trends starting in August and September of 2011, and that trend is continuing into 2012,” he said. “What we lost in 2010, we’ve already gained back plus another 1.5% increase in ridership.”

One change that spiked ridership was establishing routes down to the Olymel plant and Riverside Industrial area.

The ‘Lights, Camera, Transit’ session, which attracted about 80 people, covered new trends in public transit and how it could unfold in the City over the next few decades during a presentation last week.

Roschlau also detailed CUTA’s Transit Vision 2040, which he said acts as a blueprint for public transit. He said communities will have a much different look then, driven by the growth of cities, an ageing population, immigration and changing lifestyle expectations.

“These changes represent a challenge for communities, particularly in urban areas, to maintain and improve the quality of life while harnessing the energy and economic potential of a diverse population.”

By 2040, mobility – or the lack of it – will also be a major factor in economic competitiveness, he said. There will be more of a demand for an ability to get around by walking and biking and less via vehicles.

Transit 2040 consists of six themes including putting transit at the centre of communities, service quality, customer needs, being ‘green’ funding and staying on the cutting edge of knowledge and practice.

“A bit of creativity can go along way to inspire people, provided the service is there. That’s what it’s all about.”