Friday, December 14, 2007

Six buses -- just the buses, not the money to drive them

First, some good news ... I've partially unlocked this account so you can comment if you use WordPress, TypePad or another similar blogging account. But I'm still monitoring the comments for spam.

Okay, on to today. And it's a good news / bad news story. The good news is that Pointy Head is giving the cities badly needed money for public transit. For Hamilton, that's $6.5 million. The cash will go towards the purchase of six new articulated diesel-electric articulated low floor buses like the ones that currently plow the express milk run from the former Stoney Creek City Hall to McMaster University. (They're the ones painted grey, not white).

The new buses are supposed to run between downtown where the GO Station is (the buses and trains that run to Toronto) and southern points in the city; to Mohawk College and along Upper James Street then right to the airport which right now has a taxi link to the Upper James garage (and an additional fare, about a buck or so). Eventually this will be the north/south bus rapid transit route.

So what's the bad news? It'll be up to the city to operate the buses on their own. And the only way they'll be able to afford it is if they make the express runs a premium route with an extra fare, such that exists on some express buses in Toronto and Ottawa. That might only get people into their cars or the more crowded slow routes.

We just avoided a transit strike here by the enamel on our teeth. Does Hamilton and Queen's Park both really want to piss off transit riders again? Isn't the idea to get people out of their vehicles? The province should fund the operations up front and first then slowly withdraw them as more people see the advantages of riding transit. And the fares should be the same for local and express buses. Eventually the day should come when transit is self-financing. But it's not going to happen with the snap of one's fingers.

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