Regina will work toward greener and more efficient public transit over the next 25 years thanks to a newly approved master plan.
City council approved the Regina transit master plan at yesterday's meeting after the plan was proposed last month.
It will see all diesel buses gradually replaced with electric vehicles by 2040, with the first vehicle arriving in 2024. It will also see fare free transit for those 12 and under, as well as expansion of routes and paratransit services.
Overall, the plan has 45 actions and changes to improve the transit system.
Mayor Sandra Masters said the plan is a good framework for what Regina citizens need from the bus routes and services.
"It's clear from the report that the feedback has been [that] frequency and routing is enormously important," she said. "It helps with that idea that as the city continues to grow, we're getting people to where they need to be in an efficient manner."
The plan sees services hours increasing to 440,000 from 290,000 in the short term (five to eight years) and to 740,000 in the long term (nine to 25 years). General costs of operating the system will go from $37 million to $56 million in the short term and $97 million in the long term.
Expanding downtown hub
One of the short-term proposed changes is altering the downtown hub along 11th Avenue, in front of the Cornwall Mall.
The hub is currently set up with buses scheduled to arrive at around the same time twice an hour (more during peak times) along 11th Avenue. The buses then idle to allow for passengers to transfer and then the buses all leave at the same time.
What is proposed is expanding the downtown hub into four transfer stops at main intersections in downtown Regina. It also sees two bus stops along 11th Avenue, which is a big change from the multiple stops currently on each side of the avenue.
The change aims to eliminate the congestion of 11th Avenue while improving air quality in the area.
Transit users have voiced concerns about this change potentially adding more time and walking to their downtown transfer.
Vivian Kluthe relies on the transit system for transportation to appointments and to get groceries, and enjoys going to Victoria Park downtown. She said the change would make using transit too hard.
"I'd stay home, too much walking, well I'm 80 years old [so] I can't walk very far," she said.
Robin Morris takes the bus almost everyday. He said the current system is already reliable.
"It's convenient for us because we go to the Cornwall Centre a lot, now we'll have to walk a couple blocks."
The plan says since each route will travel past at least one 11th Avenue intersection, all transfers should be able to occur at a single intersection.
Expanding on demand services
Another long-term change set to happen is the expansion of on-demand services.
These services allow passengers to request a bus to pick them up through an app, online or by phone. They would be used in low-density, low-ridership and emerging zones.
On-demand is currently offered for Paratransit services, as well as a pilot project along route 10 for evening service.
Route 10 does have regular scheduled stops throughout the day, but switches to on demand services from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. CST. If you request a bus, you can choose to be picked up point and dropped off at any bus stops along the route.
Areas set to see on-demand services are most of the northwest area, the industrial area and the southeast corner of the city.
The plan says if on-demand route requests exceed 15 passengers an hour, they should be replaced with a fixed route.
All changes must be approved by city council before going into effect. There is no immediate timeline for the changes.