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Travelling backwards

It’s certainly not Guelph Transit’s finest hour. A little less than a year since the bus system launched thoroughly revamped routes and 15-minute service at peak travel periods, it’s been forced to take a step backward. Last night, city council was expected to approve a retreat from the 15-minute peak service that started last January, replacing it with 20-minute peak service as of Feb. 3.
Reading the list of reasons given by transit officials for the failure of 15-minute service this year is an eye-opening experience. (Their blunt report can be viewed by going to the operations, transit and emergency services committee report in the agenda for last night’s council meeting – in the “city hall” section of the city’s website.)
In 2012, it seems from the report, almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Guelph Transit. For example, transit supervisors were so busy dealing with scheduling and routing problems related to the revamped system that they didn’t have time to adequately oversee operations at Guelph Central Station, the new transit hub on Carden Street. Then in September, consultants hired by Guelph Transit found “numerous instances when buses left a hub prior to the assigned departure,” the new staff report says. They found that “approximately 15% of trips were late during weekdays, and up to 25% of connections could be missed, taking into account buses leaving the platform prior to the scheduled departure time.”
Unbelievable, but true!
It can’t have been easy to be a Guelph Transit rider in 2012, and the new report shows that many riders weren’t being unreasonable in their continuing complaints. Now they’ll have to get used to fewer scheduled buses going by their stops in 2013. It’s not what Guelph Transit and city hall were hoping for as they pursue the goals of having more people commute by bus to work and of increasing Guelph Transit’s share of trips taken in the city.
However, transit officials should be commended for acting decisively, instead of letting the problem of missed connections fester further. They have big plans for the bus system, as laid out in the transit growth strategy approved by city council in 2010. But the most important thing is bus system reliability, and this will be their main focus until further notice. That should be a relief for riders.

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