By Doug Hallett
Measures that give city buses priority over other vehicles on the road would likely be needed before Guelph Transit can return to 15-minute service at peak travel periods, says Guelph Transit’s general manager.
Michael Anders said he believes 15-minute frequency at peak morning and afternoon travel times is the appropriate level of service for Guelph.
However, given Guelph Transit’s reliability problems over the past year, so-called “transit priority” measures will probably be needed before 15-minute service can return, Anders said.
“It will not be within the near future. It will not be within a year,” he said just before council voted unanimously to switch from 15-minute peak service to 20-minute peak service.
The switch was recommended by Guelph Transit to deal with reliability problems in the bus system, including an unacceptable level of missed connections by bus riders.
The switch to 20-minute service at peak weekday travel times is slated to start on Feb. 3, with the current 30-minute service remaining during non-peak travel times on weekdays and also on weekends.
The transit growth strategy that was approved by council in 2010 proposes various “transit priority” measures to clear the way for buses, especially along the Gordon/Norfolk/Woodlawn corridor.
These measures include signal priority to let buses turn more easily at traffic lights.
They also include “queue jumping lanes,” where other vehicles would have to stop farther back from a signalized intersection and buses would be able to get around the vehicle queue.
Andy Cleary, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union local representing Guelph Transit drivers, told council he didn’t agree with the switch to 20-minute peak service recommended by Anders and city hall officials. Such a change is “another Band-Aid, not a complete fix,” he said.
Instead, Cleary recommended Guelph Transit bring back 20-minute service from 5:40 a.m. to 6:40 p.m. on weekdays, with 30-minute service on weekday evenings and weekends. This was the bus frequency used in Guelph until a revamped bus route system was introduced last January.
It’s “confusing” to switch between 20-minute peak and 30-minute off-peak service on weekdays, Cleary said. There isn’t a large drop in ridership between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays, he asserted, and the 30-minute service offered during these four hours “is not getting it done . . . we are not getting the reliability.”
City executive director of operations and transit services Derek McCaughan said some bus runs are having trouble making their 30-minute schedule, but the city is working to fix this.
Anders said that under the current revamped route structure, it would take more than the 59 buses now operated by Guelph Transit to run 13 hours of 20-minute service on weekdays.
The 20-minute all-day weekday service that was offered before last January was considered to be “not an efficient use of city resources, as on-street vehicle capacity far exceeded rider demand during off-peak periods,” says a city staff report.