In 2012, while I was chair of Happy City, we partnered with a group called the Northeast Avalon Regional Economic Development Board (NEA REDB). Together we gathered a group of community stakeholders, municipal representatives, and leaders at Metrobus to discuss public transit in St. John’s and the surrounding municipalities.
The people around the table represented a broad spectrum of our community: business; new Canadians; seniors; municipal government; single parents; students; persons with disabilities; and others. The consensus in the room was that "Transportation is foundational to every aspect of our society." The movement of people, goods, and services is essential to the growth and sustainability of our communities and province.
Since that time, St. John's has continued to grow but our public transit system remains relatively unchanged. I think it's time to restart this conversation in a meaningful way, so I'm posting a section of a letter our two groups penned to try and convince Provincial leaders to give the issue some attention.
Here's why we need a great public transit system
To help address our growing labour shortage issue, integrated transit enables:
- students to access education, leading to more available skilled workers
- job seekers to attend interviews and other networking opportunities
- new workers from away to transition into their new job and community
- companies to access skilled workers with disabilities, or otherwise find it difficult to physically access the workplace.
To help address rising healthcare costs, a regional transit system enables:
- people to seek care earlier, reducing the cost of treating serious disease
- seniors to be more active and social, leading to improved health
- persons with disabilities to rely less on personal assistance and care services
To help address rising house prices and homelessness, coordinated transit enables:
- those on low or fixed income to shift transportation costs to housing
- people to move to areas with more affordable housing without disrupting their career
To help address traffic congestion and parking issues, public transit enables:
- people to leave their car at home, meaning less traffic -- particularly at peak hours
- "park and ride" solutions which move parking areas outside of dense areas like the downtown while still enabling access to offices, shops, educational facilities, etc.
The list continues: providing easy access will reduce energy costs as families and businesses reduce their gas consumption; reducing the number of cars on the road will help preserve a clean environment; low cost transit can reduce poverty, which in turn can lead to happier, healthier reisdents and possibly even crime reduction as fewer people break the rules to make an income.
"Transportation is foundational to every aspect of our society."
Basically, if you're looking for a reason to support a better transit system, just look at any other problem you're trying to solve and all of a sudden making it easy for people to get around seems like a good idea.
Currently, public transit only exists in St. John’s through Metrobus, with contracted service to Mount Pearl. The towns of Paradise, Conception Bay South, Torbay, and Portugal Cove-St. Philips, are some of the fastest growing municipalities in Canada, but have no public transit service. Thousands of individuals commute from each of these towns daily for employment, recreational, and commercial reasons.
Providing access to public transit to this growing population is becoming a necessity. It's time to take a hard look at our current system and commit to making real, thoughtful improvements for the betterment of the entire city.
Spread the word: The time has come to seriously improve public transit in St. John's.
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