Today is the third time this term I’ve walked from the University of Waterloo to Fischer-Hallman Rd and Keats Way.
The Grand River Transit, in their infinite wisdom, has scheduled evening buses headed from a large university to an area heavily populated by students at one every half an hour. This term, that has been proving grossly inappropriate. The load level on the buses I’ve taken ranged from high, through very common instances of crush load, onto downright dangerous.
Beyond the obvious problem of lack of comfort, this also slows the system down and makes buses late as they sit at the stop for two or three minutes trying to squeeze people on. “Passengers must remain behind white line” and the driver’s visibility to their right and through the right mirror turn into cruel jokes.
I cannot blame the drivers for this. Most I’ve encountered were beyond nice in trying to fit as many students as humanly possible. But still people get left behind.
This will only get worse as the weather gets increasingly seasonal and more people opt to try and take the bus rather than walk or bike. As term goes on, more people will also study until late and try to take one of the evening buses.
There is an obvious solution, and that is to run more buses. The conventional way is clearly to schedule every 15 minutes from 9 to 11 PM or midnight as required by load. If necessary, make these the already established short run from King St to Highland Hills. Hope there will be some people will show up early as possible and be rewarded with a less crowded ride, and then the “main”, previously scheduled run will no longer be critically packed.
To avoid the bureaucracy associated with officially creating new runs, GRT could just run double for buses that pack in reliably. For simplicity, run the extra bus on a King-to-Highland routing, just make sure the short turning bus arrives at UW ahead of the one doing the whole route. GRT is familiar with the concept, and they’ve been doing it along Keats Way in the mornings after the load got truly ridiculous, though still haven’t quite nailed it. They also obviously have buses necessary, as 9 PM is far away from any peak. The only reason I can think of as to why they haven’t done anything is because they don’t know of the problem, but I find it hard to believe the drivers wouldn’t report it.
Alternatively, listen to my tongue-in-cheek advice and buy a couple of Ikarus 280s from Moscow or Warsaw. Not the highest tech, but they do fit a lot.
GRT is in an interesting situation here. In winter 2007, UW undergraduate students voted in favour of a negotiated bus pass agreement. The deal was at pretty cheap ~$45 a term (four months) for a pass mandatory for all students. Previously, an opt-in pass was $140 a term or so. At an average well over 10,000 undergrads per term, this is pretty serious commitment for GRT, and they’ve delivered some improvements.
Nevertheless, at least with the services I am familiar with (along Keats), they are toeing the capacity line during mornings and evenings, not the least because of some interesting decisions. In the morning rush, they’ve moved up a route 29 run that used to go through a few minutes before the route 12 and relieve the load a little. Now the 29 is relatively underused while a pair of 12s pack in like sardines. Why? So that the 29 could cutely interline with the newly established route 31.
Further service improvements might be hard to justify since due to the mandatory pass, they would result in very few or none extra income, but here’s an extra snag:
“Do you support a Universal Bus Pass (U-Pass) at a cost of $41.08, plus an administration cost of not more than $9.50, subject to increases due to inflation and student demand, to be paid by each full-time undergraduate student per academic term, scheduled for implementation in September 2007, and which will be reviewed in three years?”
The term shall commence on or before September 1, 2007, and continue in effect for a period of three (3) years (the “Initial Term”). Extension of the Initial Term shall be conditional upon written agreement of all parties by March 1, 2010.
Both quotes are from the Feds’ Universal Bus Pass at the University of Waterloo report (PDF, 261 kB). The referendum question used the rather unspecific “reviewed”, but in my mind it is entirely possible that there will be a student-wide referendum, if not out of Feds’ initiative then forced by petition. The timing required indicates this would probably be during the winter term.
I don’t care about having to walk occasionally; I can do it, in fact I probably should do it more often, and so far I’ve yet to suffer the fate in truly inclement weather. Others might disagree, by choice or by necessity; safety issues with walking home alone on late evenings come to mind. When heading to class, a packed bus skipping your stop might be an annoyance; to a test, a problem; to an exam, a disaster. Excessively bad service, especially in winter, might end up causing the university and GRT to find themselves apart once more, and that would be most unfortunate.