The following is a letter to the editor by Dave Lane, and was published in The Telegram May 24, 2013.
In the April 26 edition of The Telegram’s Op-Ed, “Public transit steals your time,” Brian Jones argued that St. John’s efforts to extend public transit services to outlying communities was a waste of time.
Public transit is about more than just getting somewhere fast. It’s about enabling and sustaining a vibrant and inclusive economy. We need a system that works for everyone.
I’ve been part of an ongoing dialogue spearheaded by the Northeast Avalon Regional Economic Development Board (NEA REDB). Through numerous surveys and forums, combined with a great deal of research, we have discovered that effective transportation is not simply a “nice-to-have” service in a modern city - it is foundational to a functioning community.
The primary issue with our existing transit system is not that no one uses it. Again and again we have heard people say that the routes are inconvenient and infrequent. In other words, people are not able to travel to their destinations when they want and need to.
The challenge is that in order to fix this, and to attract riders, Metrobus must add buses and routes. These additions cost money - hence the City of St. John’s request for support from surrounding communities.
It is important for us to make these improvements because public transit doesn’t just solve parking issues. A functional, widespread transit system addresses other major challenges we are facing right now: unemployment, a labour shortage, an aging population, road maintenance costs, rising healthcare costs, and more.
A well-functioning public transit system helps unemployed and underemployed people to their job interviews. It ensures newcomers can travel from their new homes to their offices.
It helps our seniors stay independent, active and engaged in society.
A convenient bus system encourages people to leave cars at home, thereby reducing traffic congestion and the cost of street maintenance. And, yes, it frees parking spaces so we can make it to the IceCaps games on time.
So, how can we make progress on this important issue?
The first step is to recognize that public transit helps everyone, regardless of whether they currently use it or not.
The second step is to begin talking about solutions rather than debating whether we need the system or not - we do.
Finally, we need our provincial and federal leaders to support this effort. The Northeast Avalon is a major economic hub, and when we physically connect these communities, the entire province benefits.
Let’s come together to create a system that works for our growing city and surrounding communities.
Dave Lane, Candidate for Councillor at Large, 2013 St. John’s Municipal Election