Monday, February 09, 2009

Red Rocket, Red Rocket!

The cable for my rear brake broke yesterday, so I decided to take advantage of the free red-and-white door-to-door limo service afforded by OC Transpo following their little "disruption". The five-minute bus ride was shorter than my usual twelve-minute bike commute, but the bike commute includes indoors-to-indoors-to-indoors (the second door is the bakery), and doesn't involve waiting for a bus.

As with most other transit users, today's ride was "chaos-free," to use the term used by the Citizen in one article. The afternoon roads downtown didn't appear to be gridlocked as they had been for the last few weeks.

On the way home, I snapped a photo of the lovely little "free" sign on the dashboard!
And according to another Citizen article, transit service might remain free for the rest of February as well. Darn right.

But Council is still playing the PR game and trying to pull another one over on us. From the same article:

The report [on costs and savings of the strike], tabled by OC Transpo head Alain Mercier [at Monday's Transit Committee meeting], shows the city made about $6 million by not providing the service from Dec. 10 — the first day of the strike — until the end of the year. That money was used to pay down OC Transpo’s year-end 2008 deficit.
This is not being honest to transit riders and taxpayers. Six million dollars lost by OC Transpo during the year is OC Transpo's fault, and shouldn't be deducted from the amount the City saved during the strike. This is six million dollars that the City is not spending on "incentives" for transit. A lot of people suffered significant losses (financial and otherwise) as a result of the strike, and they deserve to be reimbursed--if not the full amount they lost, at least the full amount the City gained from the strike.

The gentleman I spoke with today while doing the bus-stop waltz (i.e. walking back and forth to keep warm while waiting for the bus) was one such person. He told me he'd spent over $700 during the strike just to get to his part-time job on the weekends. And he was lucky to have moved downtown in November after moving to Orleans from Toronto in the summer. He said that people in Ottawa have it lucky with a fairly short rush-hour, compared with 24-hour rush hour in Toronto. Even our transit service is pretty good: he said he kept arriving 45 minutes early after moving to Ottawa, due to his usual buffer for Toronto transit trips.

If they're looking for savings, I'd like to see how much money they'll save by not having to collect and count fares. No, I'm not kidding! Some cities don't bother with fares, or at least not within downtown areas, because the cost of implementing fares is about as much as they spend on fares. With fare-free transit, you don't have to worry about front-door-only boarding, or tickets, or the whole rest of the infrastructure required to count and collect it all.

Another thing to look out for is the new split routes #2/#12 and #3/#9. I'd be interested to hear how those are going, if people are having troubles with the new routes, and if the buses are more punctual with them.

I'll keep riding the bus until I fix my bike, and maybe a bit longer. After all, the price--for now--is right!

Edit: I'm reading the aforementioned report to Transit Committee and came across some interesting information. Aside from no rail until 2017 (boo-urns!), is this tidbit just before halfway through:
All buses are refurbished mid-way through their planned 18-year lives to keep them in safe and reliable condition. Buses in North America are manufactured to last for 12 years, the age at which the U.S. government funds replacement, but in Canada, the norm is to refurbish buses and retain them in service for 18 years. The actual date of refurbishment depends on the actual condition of each bus, and so the actual work to be carried out in 2009 will depend on assessments that are made individually for each bus.
Also, this PDF (tip: right-click and select "rotate clockwise" when necessary) contains details on what the City will spend on transit in 2009, including bus purchases (hybrid and/or double-decker), retirements (6118 will be retired due to "uneconomical repair"), many various studies, adding bus lanes to some streets, replacing the elevators at St. Laurent, nearly $1M worth of CCTV cameras (not including cameras on about 50 more buses), and $18M in increased debt (accelerating each year).

- RG>


jason said...

I've heard elsewhere about the cost of collecting fares being equal to the value of the fares themselves. I'm not sure if that's accurate, though. In Ottawa, fare revenues pay for about 50% of transit operating costs. (This is going up to 55% by direction of Council.) In Toronto it's more like 80%. I certainly hope that 50% of transit operating costs aren't due to fare collection, otherwise we're doing something very very wrong!

RealGrouchy said...

Oh, no, I doubt it approaches that much; but there will be some savings, and I'm curious to know what they will be.

- RG>