Saskatchewan

2 members of Regina City Council take on transit challenge

Late last month, the president of the local transit union issued a challenge to city council: ride the bus every day for one week to identify and address issues that may exist. One councillor and the mayor undertook the challenge.

Transit challenge was issued by the local transit union late last month

The transit challenge was issued by the Amalgamated Transit Union 588, which represents roughly 200 Regina Transit employees. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

In February, the president of the local transit union issued a challenge to members of Regina's council.

City councillors and the mayor were all challenged to leave their cars at home for the week of March 17 to 23 to "understand what their constituents and transit riders go through on a regular basis."

The goal of the challenge was also to identify potential improvements to the system.

"Our hope is that the councillors take us up on the challenge and use their experience on Regina Transit to work with the union to implement service and system improvements," Kevin Lucier said in a news release.

The challenge was issued after a CBC News report, which featured this reporter riding the transit system for a day, and subsequent news stories.

Who participated?

CBC reached out to each of the 10 council members and Mayor Michael Fougere to find out if they participated in Lucier's challenge.

One out of 10 councillors participated and the mayor's office said Fougere would participate.

Ward 1 Councillor Barbara Young, Ward 3 Councillor Andrew Stevens, Ward 6 Councillor Joel Murray and Ward 8 Councillor Mike O'Donnell did not return repeated calls for comment on the challenge.

Ward 2 Councillor Bob Hawkins declined to comment on the transit challenge.

Steven's Twitter account indicated he did participate in the challenge.

Ward 4 Councillor Lori Bresciani said she was unable to participate in the challenge because she was on vacation between March 17 and March 23.

Ward 5 Councillor John Findura said due to the nature of his day job, he would be unable to take on the challenge.

"If I can, I would love to," Findura said. "With my business, I depend 100 per cent on my vehicle, which is what I do."

Do you ride the bus in Regina? What would you change about the experience? CBC reporter Bryan Eneas spent a day using transit to see what effect it had on his life. 8:59

Ward 7 Councillor Sharron Bryce said she would not be participating in the transit challenge, as she works in Wilcox and there are no Regina Transit services offered there.

"I'd love to join in, but because of my job, I just can't," Bryce said.

Ward 9 Councillor Jason Mancinelli said due to the nature of his work and other circumstances, he would be unable to participate in the challenge.

"As a councillor, the way I look at it, I think transit is a necessity," Mancinelli said. "I think it's actually an advantage in our community to be in the state we are right now."

He said there are parking problems downtown, and suggested transit as one way to alleviate those issues.

Ward 10 Councillor Jerry Flegel said he would not be participating in the challenge due to his work as a real estate agent.

"As a realtor, it just doesn't work," Flegel said. "If you're going to ride the bus, I don't think real estate would be a profession you might choose."

A spokesperson from Fougere's office said the mayor would be participating "as much as he can, given his busy schedule."

Lucier said he was a bit disappointed by the levels of participation.

"That said, [this] wasn't really that unexpected," Lucier said. "I understand these guys are busy people, and hey, maybe a week was a little bit too long to ask of them, I'm not sure."

Lucier noted that perhaps next time, issuing a shorter challenge might be more realistic and garner better participation.

Who rides transit in their daily lives?

CBC also asked each member of council and the mayor about their daily useage of Regina Transit services.

Bresciani said she uses Regina Transit when she's made aware of particular issues at stops, or with a bus route people may be having issues with.

"It's worked, from my perspective, really good," she said. "As far as taking it daily, no, I do not."

Findura said he doesn't get a chance to use Regina Transit, but not because he doesn't want to.

"I would love to," Findura said. "It's a 24/7 business that I'm in… I'm always on the go; I can go into work at two in the morning, I can get a call at two in the morning, I can go in Sunday morning, I can go in at 10:30 on a Monday night, it's just random."

Findura said he's been looking into the possibility of using Regina Transit to see how it works for him but based on his career it's difficult for him to work his schedule around the transit system.

Lucier noted it's tough to get people in Regina to buy into the idea of using the local transit system and said people need to get over the 'Regina Transit sucks' perception that seems to exist. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

Bryce said in her daily life she does have opportunities to take Regina Transit.

"I even used it once to drop off my car to this service dealer, and to take transit home," she said. "I like to use it at least a couple of times a year. I love the app that tells you where the bus is and how far it is [until] it's going to come."

Bryce noted she also enjoys the conversations she has with her fellow riders and the bus drivers when she's using Regina Transit.

Specific questions about how frequently Fougere uses Regina Transit services were not answered.

How do you change the negative perception about Regina Transit?

The most prevalent thought about Regina Transit that CBC heard while riding transit in the Queen City is "it sucks."

In terms of addressing this perception, many councillors who spoke to CBC News cited route changes and additions, accessibility upgrades at bus stops and to busses and other ongoing efforts to make improvements.

Bryce said council introduced the U-pass system, and she feels that getting kids at younger ages to use transit is beneficial in terms of getting them to use transit more through their lives.

"If people are using it and seeing that you don't have to worry about finding a parking spot downtown, or you don't have to worry about your car being broken into or anything like that," Bryce said. "It's more convenient that way, but we do live in a city that tends not to use the bus."

Findura said people have to love where they live, and then perceptions will begin to change.

He said council has done their best with the financials and support from the province and federal government.

"To say that our transit sucks, I don't believe that," he said. "Yes, there are certain areas maybe that we are not reaching, but we are working on it. To say it sucks? I would disagree with that."

Lucier said that perception of Regina Transit needs to change in order for people to overcome the idea that it "sucks."

"It's just tough to get people to buy in to the system itself when it's just quicker to drive for the most case," Lucier said. "It's easier and quicker to drive across the city than when it would take an hour to an hour and a half to get from 'A' to 'B'."

Lucier said as the president of the transit union, he would like to see a bit more frequency from the transit system, better scheduling so things could run on time.

"We just want a system that works for the people."

About the Author

Bryan Eneas

Web Writer

Bryan Eneas is a journalist from the Penticton Indian Band currently based in Regina, Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC, he worked in Prince Albert reporting in central and northern Saskatchewan. You can contact him at Bryan.Eneas@cbc.ca.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.