Mayor’s transit plan focuses on growth

“These improvements will increase ridership and put in place a transit service model that will meet the needs of our growing city.” – Mayor Jeff Lehman

By John Devine
City Scene Barrie

A new plan for moving people around the city on Barrie Transit includes buses running more frequently on arterial routes, longer service hours and more direct routes.
Titled the ‘Mayor’s Transit Vision Concept – A Plan for Barrie’s Future Transit Service,’ the plan was approved Monday night by city council, and is being marketed as “getting you where you need to go faster, more conveniently, and more reliably.”
The plan changes the transit system from a ‘hub and spoke’ network, going to and from the bus terminal on Maple Street, to a one of several transit hubs at strategic locations around the city.
“Routes will now double up on major roads, so there will be 15-minute service on many of our busiest streets, instead of the 30-minute service today,” according to a City release.
The City says the new approach will get passengers to more destinations without having to change buses. The transit system is also moving into the mobile age, under the new plan, with route information to be available via online devices such as smart-phones.
“These improvements will increase ridership and put in place a transit service model that will meet the needs of our growing city,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman when details of the plan were released in late 2011.
A recent staff report lays out the business case for the plan, detailing its goals: improvement to service levels, increasing ridership, and introducing a new transit model to meet current and future needs.
The multi-hub transit model is to be implemented over the next five years, and will realize a savings of between $1.4 million and $4.8 million over the current model, according to the report. Additionally, it assumes 716,000 more riders will have used the system, and a further savings of $1.35 million for fleet expansion will be realized.
The new model follows a review of current transit operations, including citizen satisfaction studies last year and in 2008 that had residents rating the need for transit high, but indicating low satisfaction with service levels.
The staff report identifies deficiencies in the current model, including 21 uni-directional radial routes, a hub (the bus station) that creates congestion in the downtown, and trip times that exceed an hour on some routes.
In 2009, council endorsed the direction laid out in the Barrie Transit Strategic Operating Study (BTSOS), which recommended the City investigate a new service model that would allow for increased efficiencies as well as meeting the needs of population growth and boundary change.
This and additional reviews led to the establishment of the Mayor’s Transit Task Force, an informal group created to drive the process of renewing the transit system. The new model, reflecting the goals of the BTSOS, was hammered out between March and October of last year.
Costs related to the new model include two new buses for $900,000, a real-time passenger information system for $300,000, and $125,000 for a mobility hub feasibility study, cost of which is to be shared with Metrolinx. The study is to develop strategy for linking various transit systems – GO, inter-city transit and Barrie Transit – through the Allandale Station Waterfront lands.
If left as is, the transit system would require five new buses, at a cost of $450,000 each, to address ridership needs. According to the report, the expenditure would be a temporary fix, not meeting future needs.
The first phase of the plan forecasts an increase in operations to 169,000 service hours a year, an increase of 28,000 service hours. Buses would start to run at 5 a.m. and would keep running until 12:30 a.m. The second phase would see the construction of a new transit garage. For more on that story, click here and here.

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