Comment 120697

By Haveacow (registered) | Posted February 03, 2017 at 13:18:12

To me the worrying thing about the HSR is not whether ridership is up or down. The HSR is definitely underfunded and has been for a considerable time, going on decades. The ridership has been more or less flat lined or is in a very slow decline since the 1980's at the least. Putting in more operational and capital funding locally can help. Definitely fixing the area rating system for funding transit is a must! In the 1980's the HSR was easily the 3rd or 4th largest local transit agency in terms of passengers and spending, in the province (depends if you count Go Transit or not). Now, the HSR is 7th (not counting Go Transit) and will soon be passed in passengers numbers and spending by both Waterloo's Grand River Transit and London Transit, both of which started far, behind the HSR. Durham Regional Transit, a relative rookie agency that is just beginning to gain size and prominence will also very soon in short order be passing the stagnant HSR.

Massive budget increases and Rapid Transit, LRT and or BRT can build ridership but there are other cheaper things that can and must be done at the HSR. Cheap things like a website that is really usable, actually being on social media and taking it seriously. The HSR only recently decided to have a presence on Twitter for example. Ottawa's OC Transpo been there for almost 9 years, and O.C. Transpo is really not that tech savy. This sheer lack of a big online presence hurts the service, access for older reports and records for the HSR is astoundingly poor. Transit agencies in Canada have learned painfully that, you can't hide or horde away info about your operations, that eventually backfires on you.

Cheap marketing about the service itself. If you have young children this becomes important if you want to interest and build up little transit users. Just about every large transit operation or one with a rapid transit service for example, has some kind of cheap paper folding models of buses and or trains that you can print on your printer at home and have a little paper toy for the kids, ready made. A few hundred printed on simple card stock at local festivals and events establishes a memorable community presence for the operation. Coloring sheets that can be printed off at home that show kids how to use and behave on the bus, really simple cheap marketing! Brick and mortar stores as well as E stores selling transit items of all kinds have popped up recently, nice if you want to by stuff for transit fans. Heck, even Canadian model railway company Rapido Trains, is now producing museum quality HO scale (1:87) classic Canadian and American GM Newlook Bus models in various historical paint schemes for your model railway layouts. The transit service doesn't make the product, all they have to do is provide the rights for the private companies and they do the hard work for them.

This is very difficult to say but as an independent planning consultant I have seen things that show the real internal problems at the HSR and its governance group. It would be nice to have city council members that will actually openly support the HSR's planners and transit employees. Unfortunately, you get guys and girls like Councilor Whitehead and Skelly in every city council. What the HSR really needs is an internal shake up to get the cob webs out. The times I have worked with HSR staff show a heavily demoralized group all throughout the organization. I'm not talking about wholesale firings here. A seed change in attitude is needed across the whole organization, good employee or not. Certain organizational structures must change because they were outdated when I started working as a planner 2 and half decades ago, then I briefly left planning joined the navy and then came back to planning. Many of these outdated practices and structures are still there. Real change has to begin at the HSR itself long before the budgets get bigger.

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