Guelph Transit has had its problems the last couple of years. Those that use the service everyday have tried to tell the powers that be about them, but they've hit a wall, it seems that the problems experienced by people who ride the bus daily aren't easily understood unless you experience them yourself. To wit, community activist and Ward 2 councillor candidate Sian Mawtey last year proposed a transit challenge, every council and mayoral candidate to give up there cars and try to make their way around the city without them. Well two councillors, Phil Allt and Leanne Piper, are taking up the challenge. How will they find a month on Guelph Transit?
On his blog, Allt is trying to chronicle his experiences taking the bus as opposed to his own automobile. "It can take an hour and half to do what took 20 minutes with a car," he writes. "For example on Saturday I went to the Stone Road Mall to buy a shirt – or to look for a shirt. Nothing there looked good. With a car, I could go elsewhere to shop. On the bus, with my wait and journey time, my short trip took the better part of the afternoon. The minus – no shirt. The pluses – I saved money, I slowed down, I met people and I experienced a Guelph I have not been exposed to for decades. I met people, I learned about transit, I saw neighbourhoods from a different point of view."
This is not news to anyone that frequently takes the bus in Guelph. If you want to get from one end of town to the other, the bus ride can take upwards of 90 minutes and may include as many as three transfers. When people talk about Guelph as a "small town" it's really not small enough for a lot of transit users.
One of the other aspects of taking transit is that you have to build your day around the bus schedule, as hopping on a bus is not nearly as easy as hopping in one's car. "I find I need to prepare more in advance," Piper told the Guelph Mercury. Very true, and imagine losing 30 minutes of your day because a bus doesn't come, or doesn't come on time and fails to get you downtown for your transfer.
I applaud both Allt and Piper for their efforts, my only wish is that others on city council would take up the cause too. I've long suspected that one of the reasons for all the problems with the transit service is that no one in the upper levels of city management, the mayor, or city council uses the bus on a frequent basis, if ever, and if they do, it's almost always some stunt like spare the air day.
As Guelph Transit looks to modernize and be more responsive to the needs of Guelphites, it will be useful to have some people in the final decision making body that have had some first-hand experience with the challenges that need to be overcome. It just makes sense, really.