Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Transit in Moncton

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jul 29, 2008

Originally posted on Half an Hour, July 29, 2008.

Editor, Times and Transcript,

Before criticizing the bus system (which as riders we all love to do) we should perhaps acknowledge that it is currently the best it has ever been.

I have not owned a car since 1995, but it was not until last year that I bought a Moncton bus pass, because until then the system was simply unusable. But with the start of the Express routes, the bus system began to make sense.

That said, while I agree of your editorial of July 28 that the bus system ought to be improved, I do not agree that we should adopt a hub and spoke route system. Such a system underserves the regions, and deprives the corridor routes of passengers.

A hub and spoke system would create delays transferring from one bus to another. This is the least efficient aspect of the bus system, and should be avoided where possible.

The bus system should operate as a mesh network, with long, direct, and frequent interlocking routes. This frequently offers rapid one-bus trips, and minimizes the number of connections between buses.

Similarly, with service to high-volume events, such as the Eagles concert. Unfortunately, the transit system will once again use a transfer point (unannounced, but almost certainly the NorthWest Centre - Codic Transit seems to have an unholy affinity for that mall) which will needlessly delay passengers to and from the show.

Direct routes to major points should be offered - to Champlain mall, to downtown, to Dieppe, to Riverview. It should be possible to ride just one bus to and from the show, without waiting a half-hour at the transfer point in a mad crush of people.

To be fair to the managers of the transit system, they have been attempting to offer a service in a city that is mostly built for cars. This is what accounts for much of the convolution of the route system.

In a typical transit system, passengers normally expect to walk a few blocks to catch the bus or train. This is common, even healthy. However, in Moncton, walking is often not possible, as sidewalks are frequently not in place (especially at the malls), and in winter, are poorly cleaned.

Buses, for example, should never be sent into mall parking lots. This is why buses get bogged down at Trinity (necessitating yet another transfer at NorthWest Centre, thus disrupting the Express service). They should stop at the edge of the parking lot, at a bus bay with shelters, where passengers are able to walk along the wide, and preferably covered, sidewalk to the mall entrance.

Moncton serves pedestrian traffic poorly, so bus routes are mangled in order to make up for this. We have them loop through parking lots, residential districts, industrial parks, and the rest, all because it is otherwise impossible to walk from the bus stop to your destination.

Buses are only one part of an overall transit plan in a city. Reducing our dependence on cars will save the city money in road construction and will save residents money in needless gas and car insurance costs. But this means doing things link building and maintaining sidewalks, bike paths, shelters and pedestrian bridges.

I have lived in Moncton since 2001 and have noticed an unusual opposition to such expenditures. It is this opposition, rather than some poor decisions about bus routes, that is the major cause of Moncton's poor transit system today.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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