April 22nd, 2024

Committee at loggerheads over cityLINK

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on February 4, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The Civic Works Standing Policy Committee on Thursday failed to find consensus on two motions brought forward on the new cityLINK transit system.

After a long debate and two recesses by the SPC, the future of cityLINK will come back at a later council meeting as a presentation and for a potential decision.

The first motion the SPC addressed called for council to approve the cityLINK redesign with quarterly adjustments being made to reflect feedback, changing travel patterns and metric indicators.

A second motion, brought forward by councillor Ryan Parker called for council to return the transit system to pre-cityLINK routing and design.

The committee, which consists of chair Belinda Crowson, vice-chair Nick Paladino, Parker and John Middleton-Hope heard presentations from Transit general manager Timothy Sanderson, representatives from the Lethbridge School Division, transit union president Travis Oberg, two transit operators and a member of the public.

Sanderson told the committee that ridership and performance are up and complaints down but concerns were expressed by other presenters.

Oberg, president of Amalgamated Transit Union local 97 who represents 130 plus transit workers, told the SPC that transit operators are hearing many issues exist with the new system.

“I spent the last three weeks thinking about what I wanted to say to council on behalf of the riders in our community, riders that aren’t being heard, riders that aren’t having their value taken and a slight minority who have time to put in complaints to members of management.”

Oberg said “I’m passionate about this because each and every day as an operator I see the destruction that it’s caused in our community. Members of our community that no longer have equal access to community buses, equal access to transit and a consistent service that provides daily reliability for all to get to their destinations.

He said in 2017 he was asked to talk to city council about the city transit master plan and informed them not to go to a direct ridership system because coverage and people would be impacted when the system was taken out of their communities.

He said the fixed rate system was here so long people built their livelihoods around it.

“It’s consistent, its reliable and it’s effective,” he said.

Christine Light, vice chair of the LSD board of trustees and board chair Allison Purcell of the school division said cityLINK is causing challenges for students and families.

“Our desire is for students and their families to be able to participate in, benefit from and contribute to our community in meaningful ways. Many of the challenges expressed by youth and parents fall under the umbrella of accessibility,” Light said, referring to transportation getting to and from out-of-school activities.

Light said the “heart of our advocacy lies with the reality that lack of accessibility to public transportation is having a negative impact on the ability of students, children and families to engage in our community. Barriers accessing public transportation impact our children and youth in ways that impede their access to services” such as work experiences during the school day, food and appointments, she said.

“It also diminishes their growth and healthy development due to limited access to recreation and leisure centres in the city. Marginalized individuals become increasingly disadvantaged because they are challenged with accessing the transportation service they need.”

Parker told the SPC that city staff do a good job in thinking progressively and on delivering on the requests of past city councils.

“I’m hearing the consequences of a decision made by a council of the past and I heard loud and clear prior to the election but also during the election” and also after the election when talking to numerous seniors organizations such as Nord Bridge and Green Acres that they liked the way transit used to be and they miss it and want to know why it changed.

“Sometimes it’s OK to admit that it didn’t work out,” Parker said.

Deputy mayor Belinda Crowson spoke passionately about the need for cityLINK to be adopted permanently.

“We didn’t make changes to a transit system, we blew it up and created a brand new transit system. And this is a very different transit system,” said Crowson.

“I know the concerns people have with this,” she said referring to longer walks and problems expressed by Lakeview residents about service in that southside area.

“But this is making the numbers go up, this is actually going to improve the lives of a lot more people because a lot more people are using it,” Crowson added.

“The public services we provide the community should not just exist, they should be a luxurious amazing system. It will be better for the economy, it will be better for the climate….if we have an amazing transit system, we can get rid of cars if we need to at some point in life.

“What we do with this transit system is absolutely vital,” Crowson added.

“We put in a new system, it’s not yet perfect but we will make adjustments as we move ahead. But this is a move in the right direction.”

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