Presentation to the Standing Policy Committee on Transportation, February 1, 2021

Re: Process for Introducing or Expanding Transit within New and Developing Neighbourhoods

Greetings and thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Robert Clipperton and I address you as the spokesperson for Bus Riders of Saskatoon.

Bus Riders would like to communite our support for the ideas presented in this document and would like to commend the writer, Mr. Shrigley, for the clarity with which it is written.
It has been said that Saskatoon’s transit system was designed to give all parts of the City equally mediocre service and we are pleased to see policy development that will move Transit forward. Most of you will have heard comments from the public at your ward meetings where people complain that they never see more than two people on the bus running through their neighbourhood.

The processes proposed in this report will allow for the flexibility needed to adjust service both up and down. Many of you were in office in about 2016 when the City brought in Jarrett Walker to address Council on modern transit systems. He utioned that any improvements will require change and that every change will bring complaints. He said something to the effect that route improvements that benefit ten people are likely to ‘ruin one person’s life’. That may be hyperbole, but we need to be prepared to hear from a few understandably disappointed people as we improve the system. Neighbourhoods differ and it makes no sense to offer as intensive service to a neighbourhood such as The Willows for example as is offered to say Fairhaven. To quote Jarrett Walker: “No agency should pretend to be meeting both coverage and ridership goals with the same dollar.”

We are pleased to see direction in this document which recommends revised processes whereby service levels will be data driven. Existing and potential ridership levels are recognized and there is an articulated path to reduce service to an area where ridership persistently remains low. It takes into account the high density corridor and infill strategies as outlined in the Growth Plan and the implementation of the eagerly awaited Bus Rapid Transit service.

When the 2019 budget was finalized Bus Riders was surprised to see a proposal to add $350,000 to the Transit budget to expand service into Rosewood. There had been little discussion of this request at Council, the item appeared right at the end of the budget discussions as a separate little add-on and was not supported by the usual report from administration. It was approved with little to no discussion. Bus Riders was dismayed.

If there was an extra $350,000 to spend on improved Transit in Saskatoon, could there not have been consideration of enhancements which would have impacted more people? Enhancements such as expanded service hours on week-ends – especially Sunday mornings when some people have real trouble getting to work, or late night hours on certain routes for those exiting entertainment venues downtown on Friday and Saturday nights, or making child and high school student fares affordable? We would like to see the preparation of a costed list of service enhancements so Council n choose between beneficial options rather than approving expansion into neighbourhoods simply beuse they are there.

The only thing we would take issue with in the report is that it says that there have been no “environmental implitions identified.” Of course there are environmental implitions. Any measure which boosts transit ridership and which results in fewer vehicles on the road helps Saskatoon reach the targets laid out in the city’s Low Emissions Community Plan.

Thank you for your time today.

Transit’s proposal and the Councillors insightful discussion on the topic is available here.

Reasons to Take the Bus!

Today I want to talk about why taking the bus is actually better than taking your r to many places in the city. I’m going to begin with a statistic that I found hard to believe: the cost of owning a vehicle. Based on a simple internet search, the average automobile costs between $700 and $800 a month. A month. That’s the direct cost to the person and it’s not the cost of driving a luxury r – it’s the average. In addition, whether it’s highways pounded by semi trucks (remember when rail accounted for more shipping, and every third vehicle you met in the countryside wasn’t a giant semi?) or it’s the city streets with their never-ending torrent of vehicles, road maintenance and road expansion costs every one of us every year. These are just collective financial costs, with no mention of land lost to urban sprawl as our cities expand and of the pollution that accrues from so many rs, many of them rrying only one person beuse we treasure our independence and flexibility so much.

And that’s before we even get into the many things that don’t cost money but that drive us crazy about being our own chauffeurs.

We constantly hear about how the infrastructure isn’t keeping up with the need for more space for our demanding vehicles. Driving at certain times of the day in almost any city is easily slower than riding a bike, but for me, it’s the sheer aggravation of the incessant tiny decisions; creeping forward in traffic so that someone doesn’t cut me off or edge into my lane; not timing the lights correctly, so that I’m constantly starting and stopping; that person who isn’t aggressive enough, or who is too aggressive; the people who don’t go fast enough or who are right behind me beuse I’m not going fast enough. And this, of course, doesn’t mention the finger waving, fist shaking people who share our city. I don’t have to worry about any of that when I’m on the bus.

I’m not really a public places sort of person, but I find that the bus engine actually makes enough noise that I’m insulated from most of the other passengers. I live on the edge of the city, so I like to read while I sit, but I don’t mind standing; it just doesn’t matter. The main thing is this: I’m much more relaxed on the bus than I am driving my r.

There are other advantages as well, although they don’t influence me as much. I hate driving uptown, so if I go, I take the bus or my bike. Even though there seems to be enough parking, I’m always tethered to wherever I’ve parked, and while I might start near the r, I usually want to do more than one chore. After I’ve walked some distance, I’d really rather pick up a ride at the nearest bus stop than walk back and forth to my r. The alternative is that I get a ticket, and like most people, I find that that kind of ruins the entire trip.

I haven’t been in a traffic accident in awhile, but that’s a non-issue on a bus. Meanwhile, in the last year or so, I’ve seen? five accidents actually happen, or I’ve seen the immediate aftermath.

Parking the tens of thousands of rs in any city is a logistil nightmare, and parking my own isn’t a problem when I take the bus. When I took a class at the university, for instance, there was no parking, so I found space south of fourteenth street, and walked the twenty minutes from there. In all, it never took me less than a half hour to drive and walk to class. A bus takes me almost exactly the amount of time.

Transit avoids many inconveniences of owning a r in Saskatoon. I realize that it takes more time, but since I’ve retired, I have more of that, and I n plan my trips much more easily, especially in the summer. In the winter, since I hate to be cold, I dress so that I don’t suffer, and I haven’t found waiting at a bus stop to be all that bad. For me, the bus is relaxing and mass transit spares the environment. And if I’m riding a bus, I’m out of your way. It also allows me to avoid the time and annoyance of parking; although I have to walk two blocks to my bus stop, getting on the bus at my destination is almost always closer and more convenient. There are drawbacks to taking mass transit anywhere, but there are also benefits. I still need to drive sometimes, but if I’m honest, I’d far rather avoid it, and the bus is the best way for me to do that.

Bus Rapid Transit

One of the City’s initiatives for transit in the near future is “rapid transit”.? When I first heard the term, I admit that the first thing I thought of was what Edmonton has: a kind of tracked, above-ground series of rs that look as much like subway rs as anything else.? That’s not what BRT looks like.? It’s simply a system where buses are given more priority than they are now: they have dedited lanes to prevent them being held up by congested traffic; traffic lights are set up to allow the buses to proceed with fewer slow downs so that passengers cover the same amount of distance in fewer minutes.

This uses some real concerns for many motorists.? Over the last number of months, for instance, several businesses on Broadway have wondered how on earth a dedited bus lane could be feasible when there are only two lanes each way in the first place.? What if I’m trying to park in the only lane for regular traffic and you’re behind me?? How do you get by me if the only other lane is a bus lane?? Do you just have to sit there and wait for me?? City officials, faced with that question, nnot tell you that you n go around by using the bus lane for a moment, but that’s the reality of what you’d do: you’d zip around the parking r and then go back into the regular lane.

Another concern is the “rapid” part of the BRT, with some alarmists wondering how on earth their neighbourhood will survive buses thundering down roads that may contain children.? The answer to that, again, is pretty simple: the speed of the buses doesn’t change – they don’t charge down our streets any faster than they do now.? They also don’t stop for lights as long; they don’t have to pick through traffic; the flow is smoother: the trip is faster without the bus ever going faster than it does now.

We’re often hesitant to change.? We worry if the system will be worse, if the experts who run our cities are really experts at all.? Once we’ve found a way to handle our daily commute, we don’t want to redo it.? If I’m stuck in traffic for twenty minutes, I may hate it, but at least I know that I n handle it; after all, I’ve been stuck in traffic every day for the last several years, so I’m used to it.? The whole idea of trying new ideas is to try and try again to make our lives more manageable.? BRT is one more weapon to allow not only you and me, but our neighbours, a way to go about our lives.


Presentation to Council – Budget 2019

The following is the written text of the presentation Bus Riders of Saskatoon gave to Saskatoon City Council during the deliberations for Budget 2019 (special thanks to Robert Clipperton):


Bus Riders of Saskatoon – 2019 Budget Reaction

Over the past few years Saskatoon Transit has done an admirable job in implementing Frequent Transit Corridors (FTCs) along 8th Street, 22nd Street and College/Attridge Drive without increases in the annual operating budget to do so. A purpose of these FTCs was to pilot the concept of Bus Rapid Transit, running buses at roughly 10-minute intervals, while simultaneously contending with unpredictable traffic congestion and train delays. ??The FTCs have been a resounding success and resulted in increased ridership which bodes well for the success of BRT. ?In order to implement these FTCs without an increase in the operating budget however, there have been some negative impacts on other services.

BRT and the redesign of the conventional network are still several years in the future. ?Meanwhile Saskatoon Transit is forced to keep operating a less than ideal hybrid system while simultaneously building the new system. We believe that this double duty is creating untenable stress in the transit system which will only be alleviated by an injection of operating dollars.

This fall there is an unusual number of reports of routes where buses run chronilly late, where buses are unacceptably crowded, where passengers are left standing at the bus stop beuse buses are full, and where service hours don’t meet people’s needs.? In the past, most of these reports have peaked in September and then tapered off in time, but this year, with the increase in ridership, they continue on.

Hardships are evident.? A few examples:

From Ward One:? “Holy cow.? I am so sick of the transit system. My bus was late making me miss my transfer at the university by literally 15 seconds (drove away as I stepped off the bus)… 15 seconds now makes me an hour behind.”

From Ward Six: “Late buses affect me about once a month with getting to work late. I’m worried that I’m looked at as unreliable to my boss and co-workers.”
From Ward One: The bus from my area combined with the transfer issues means that I n leave home at the same time every day and arrive at work in 14 minutes (record so far) or 63 minutes (record so far). Standing at the same bus stop. Same time. Same route. Same transfer. Same job site. How does one schedule for that?”

From Ward Nine: Last month, I ncelled my bus pass that I was fortunate to have my work subsidize for me and made alternative arrangements. It just wasn’t reliable as a source of transportation.”

From Ward Ten:? “I n’t speak to my experience in the past as this is the first time I have taken the bus in close to 20 years but this morning I was waiting for a 7:30 bus at Lowe and Atton but the bus drove by me and 5 people. … . The App said the next bus was 24 minutes away. 1 boy stayed, 3 walked away and I texted my husband who got me and drove me to work.? I n’t rely on the bus to get me to work unless I start going in an hour early every day which is not reasonable.”

From Ward One: “Well today was an extra terrible experience.? Firstly the bus was 20 minutes late first thing this morning so I was 20 minutes late for work.? Then after work I was out waiting at 4:15 on Airport Drive for the bus.? The next bus me at 5:40 ”

Ward Seven “Twice, when trying to get on the #17 Stonebridge, I was told there was no room…. For a pregnant woman in winter, no less.? One who has just left the hospital.? Once I had my son with me, in his stroller, and I flat out refused to wait out in the cold for the next bus.? I literally had to demand they make room.”

From Ward 2: “My kids have had to sit on dirty floors when the bus is full beuse no one offers a seat for them. They n’t hold onto anything beuse they are too small and risk getting hurt when the driver steps on the brakes.”

Ward Seven:? “I had to pull my son from the gymnastics class he’s been taking for years beuse they changed the route (used to be #4)? that went by the gym and the new route (now #11) is consistently extremely late – leaving us no way to get to/from on-time. “

FTCs have been a wonderful innovation to our system which is reflected in increased ridership.? We don’t want to lose new riders in this interim period just when we are at the point of getting a great new transit system. ?Transit needs an increase in their operating budget so that there is the flexibility to address these growing pains as they become evident.

I end with a final quote from a transit user:

“I think it is great to see increased riders! Now the City should be working to keep the service successful.”

That’s what Bus Riders of Saskatoon think too.


Public Transit Planner Jarrett Walker

Jarrett Walker presents Abundant Access: Public Transit as an Instrument of Freedom


What is the best bus network possible for our beautiful city? You might have considered it, or you might have heard what others have proposed, from our mayor to the person sitting next to you on the bus.

Jarrett Walker has considered and redesigned numerous public transit systems?from all over the world, and he will be in Saskatoon this Saturday, March 12 at 7:30 pm at the Broadway Theatre to talk about his experiences. There will also be a reception after the event.

If you’re able to make it to the event, let us know what you think on our Facebook page, or at our next meeting.

Great Places-Jarrett Walker-March 12

8th Street Transit Service Plans

Saskatoon Transit Public Engagement Opportunity-8th Street Transit Service Plans


Is it possible that Saskatoon Transit will make strides forward? Or perhaps you don’t agree with the new 8th street transit service plans. To get more information about the new plans for routes along 8th Street, attend Saskatoon Transit’s Engagement Opportunity on March 16th, 4 pm, at TCU Place. If you n’t make it, fill out the survey between March 11th to 25th.

Also, feel free to share your comments on our Facebook page, or attend our next meeting.


8th street transit service plans