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Kingston Transit no Polar Express

Bus Stop?
Kingston Transit recently announced that it was awarded $1.2 million by the provincial government and that it has plans to use this money to improve service.

My first reaction: “Hallelujah for that!”

As a monthly pass holder who has been thoroughly disappointed in bus service this winter, this came as welcome news. During the month of February I did not have the pleasure of successfully catching the 4:15 bus home from work even one time. I wanted to catch it. I got there on time. I waited for it.. and waited, and waited… Every night, after a long day of work, I trudged through snowbanks, slid along slippery sidewalks and stood in place at the bus stop in frigid temperatures and howling winds only to be left there – stranded by Kingston’s bus system. Most days I was saved by a friend who drove past and spotted me, perched frozen atop a three foot snowbank, at the bus stop. Some days I simply had to walk home, cursing under my breath. But on no occasion did I even see a bus headed west, let alone catch one.

I am certain that I am not the only bus rider in Kingston who has this story to tell.

What surprised me most about this situation was that it occurred along one of our city’s busiest routes – two different buses running two different schedules are supposed to traverse that stretch of Union Street. In response to my nightly complaints to Kingston Transit, the manager confirmed to me that this was, indeed, the best serviced area of the city. His comments weren’t inspiring, instead I was simply left to wonder how poor the service might be in other areas and ponder how, in the face of this utter unreliability, Kingston Transit even remains in business.

With the announcement of the $1.2 million cash infusion I thought that these troubles would soon be over. My route – and everyone else’s – might finally benefit from snow-cleared curbs, more buses, plentiful shelters, posted schedules and more frequent service! I eagerly awaited the news of how this huge injection of funds would be spent to move Kingston Transit into the 21st century. As it happens, my wait was in vain – again.

Paula Nichols spoke to CKWS tv to explain that the money would be used to implement a smart-card pay system. You know, the kind of thing where you get to flash a card over a sensor and in an instant you’ve paid your fare? I suppose the idea is to move people out of the doorway and into the crowded aisles faster than ever before. I can see where they’re going with this – it’s hip, it’s now, it’s so au courant. Who could resist riding the bus if they knew they would get to use one of those things? Ms. Nichols goes on to explain that the provincial money is earmarked for Capital Expenses and not Operating Expenses, with the implication that this is the reason that they are stuck using the whole chunk of money for such a frivolous purpose. I might have believed her, too, I might have thrown up my hands in defeat and said “them’s the breaks” if it weren’t for the fact that buses and shelters are clearly under the Capital Expense category. With her excuses, Paula dashed my hopes of ever getting home on the bus.

I’d like to take the bus, I really would. But I’d also like to keep my job, get home before dark, and avoid frost bite. There are lots of good reasons to use public transit – it saves gas, it alleviates parking concerns, it’s social… and in this age of raised environmental consciousness (and even tax write-offs for transit users) it seems barbaric not to at least try it. So I did. I didn’t like it.

A smart use of the money would have been to improve the reliability of the bus service – to throw the whole wad into smart cards???? Well that’s just….. dumb.

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3 thoughts on “Kingston Transit no Polar Express

  • March 10, 2008 at 1:57 am
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    I agree with the writer – buying a smart card system is a really bad idea right now for Kingston Transit. Being on time would be a great start, and so would adding a few more buses to the system. North York on the “Viva” line has smart cards, wireless internet and huge, plush seating – which is great when you can actually get on one, because most of the time, they’re over 45 minutes late. Kingston Transit – take a lesson from them! Find a better way to spend the money!!!

  • March 12, 2008 at 3:27 pm
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    I could’nt think of a worse way to spend the money. This city’s transit system is less than reliable or convenient. In my opinion the money would be best spent in adding more routes particularily at night and on Sundays.

    It is a horrible waste of money. Common sense would say use the money to make the system more frequent and reliale to encourage more riders. But then again considering numerous decision made by this city in the past couple of years one really cant be suprised at the decission.

  • March 26, 2008 at 12:32 pm
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    To be fair to Kingston Transit, a couple points in their defense:
    1. They’d been planning to replace the fare boxes they’ve got now for years.
    2. The company that makes the fare boxes that they’re using right now doesn’t make them anymore. Any time a new bus enters service, it receives a fare box from an old bus.

    This is something they’ve been trying to do for a long time now, and that they were already going to do. Why not use this money for it? Last year’s service improvements were a great success, and all that is left for them is to continue increasing service.

    I don’t know what it was like on Union St, but buses “not showing up” was a problem for me where I catch the bus from work on Stewart St. The issue is that with the snow piled up, cars were getting farther and father from the curb. Hardly enough space for 2 cars to pass through at once on 75% of the road, certainly not even CLOSE for letting a bus through with a car.

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