By Jessica Lovell
More changes are on the way for Guelph Transit users as the city tries to deal with a backlash of complaints related to the move from St. George’s Square to the new transit hub on Carden Street.
But while the changes, coming into effect Sept. 2, include changes to the buses routed through the square, most changes are actually being made to routes in the city’s south end. The changes downtown may not satisfy some of the riders complaining of difficulty getting to the square.
“It was staff’s recommendation that we would not route any more than the five routes that we currently have in or out of the square,” said the city’s general manager of community connectivity and transit, Michael Anders.
Prompted by a request from the Downtown Guelph Business Association, city staff recently completed a detailed analysis of the existing routes to see if more of them could pass through the square, he said.“We got feedback from some of the businesses on upper Wyndham that their business has declined,” said Anders. Much of that feedback was related to concern about “seniors not being able to travel like they used to through the square,” he said.
But following the route analysis, only two routes will be changing, and the net result will be the same number of buses stopping in the square.
Route 13, which currently comes down Wyndham Street, will go down Woolwich instead; Route 11 will replace it, coming into the square on Wyndham.
Other buses passing through the square include Route 10, which will pass through on both its inbound and outbound journeys, Route 20 on its inbound trip, and the Community Bus North on its outbound trip.
The main transfer point for riders changing buses will continue to be the Guelph Central Station hub on Carden Street – about 250 metres from where buses used to stop in the square. The hub also serves GO buses and trains, and is the planned staging area for Greyhound buses following completion of renovations to the VIA train station.
While it is possible for those whose ultimate destination is St. George’s Square or upper Wyndham Street to transfer buses at Guelph Central Station to get there, the city is still working on making it easier, said Anders.
“There will be continued discussions,” he said, noting that city staff are investigating “the technical aspects and the financial aspects” of providing an alternative service, such as a shuttle bus between the hub and upper Wyndham.
“One of the things that we may be able to do with a shuttle that we can’t do with a conventional bus is we can customize the route pattern,” Anders said, explaining why a shuttle might be favourable to riders over the existing option of transferring buses.
But some education for riders, many of whom are seniors struggling to adjust to the new routes, may also be in order.
“Some of the seniors may have just been so frustrated because they had the same service for so long,” said Anders, explaining that some people may just be having trouble adapting to the change and may not realize that they can still get where they need to go.
City staff are offering to visit various sites around the city to deliver a program that would include information to help people feel comfortable with the new routes.
Ultimately, the routes represent an effort to improve the service, said Anders, noting that there were complaints before changes were made, as well.
Some people are actually happy with the new service, he said.
“People who like the service really like the service. Others continue to express their displeasure,” he said.