Talks of a robust public transit system dominate Saskatoon growth summit

The City of Saskatoon held a growth summit at city hall Monday night to gather feedback from the public and stakeholders about its aggressive plan to accommodate double its population.

Long term plans for transit include dedicated lanes, bus rapid transit, newer fleet

Saskatoon City Council. (CBC)

Saskatoon's mayor and council heard feedback Monday night on the city's plan for managing growth, as the city expects to double in size over the next couple of decades.

On the table were plans for infill development, a robust Saskatoon Transit system with rapid transit and dedicated bus lanes, and the possibility of another river crossing around the 33rd Street area among others. But transit got a lot of attention Monday night.

Mandy Chen with the Bus Riders of Saskatoon said she's thrilled with the growth plan's focus on public transit, moving away from the automobile-centric planning that has ruled the Bridge City for eons.

"Transit should be accessible, effective and reliable," Chen told council. "We're happy with the growth plan being put forward today. We're happy because it speaks to every single question raised by our group … For the first time we're seeing public transit at the centre of the discussion for long term planning."

Chen added the growth plan speaks to issues around improvements to customer service, a focus on reliability and frequency of buses on certain routes and fleet renewal; all key concerns for bus riders.

She also cheered the city's goal to double its ridership during peak hours from four to eight per cent.

"We believe this is achievable," she said.

Business community: Rapid transit needs to wait

Keith Moen representing the North Saskatoon Business Association (NSBA) said the right market demand needs to be established first before the city embarks on offering a mass transit system.

He said people move to the suburbs of Saskatoon knowing and expecting to drive to get around.

"Regardless of what changes might be forthcoming, and we're encouraging changes don't get me wrong, it's unlikely that this behaviour will be reversed certainly not to any large degree," Moen said adding the case for a rapid transit system (BRT) in Saskatoon needs to make sense first.

"We support a BRT provided it is based on market demand. Therefore, the process we would encourage is: one, being the leading jurisdiction in terms of taxation, regulation and policy to encourage corridor growth investment; two, to have infill development occur; and three, development of a BRT system to match that demand," Moen said.

Moen added the development of a perimeter highway and a river crossing north of Saskatoon should be a priority for this council.

This is just the start 

Ward 7 City Councillor Mairin Loewen said Monday's meeting is just the start of discussions when it comes to Saskatoon growth plan.
Mairin Loewen councillor in Ward 7. ((CBC))

Some items in the overall plan, such as adding more buses on major corridors such as 8th Street will come forward almost immediately, whereas other plans like another river crossing or a BRT, will be fleshed out much more before decision time.

"This is by no means the end of the conversation this is really a launching point for us to get into the details of things like infill and transit changes, there's a lot on the table here tonight," she said.


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