Regina city councillors will get their first chance to debate the future of transit in the Queen City next week.
The city’s first-ever Regina Transit Master Plan, which was developed by city administration and will guide decision making around transit for the next 25 years, heads to executive committee next Wednesday.
“This plan leads Regina transit in a direction that is customer-focused and modern. It improves transportation in our community, and manages growth to create a sustainable and attractive option that is achievable.”
One goal leading the transit plan, which was developed to complement other city strategies such as the Energy and Sustainability Framework (ESF), is to increase Regina Transit’s mode-share to 25 per cent by 2025. That is, to have public transit account for one quarter of all trips taken within the city.
Currently, according to transit and fleet director Brad Bells, who acknowledged that the pandemic has decreased ridership, that number is closer to five per cent.
To increase ridership, the plan proposes a suite of short, medium and long-term goals.
The plan proposes increasing transit frequency on all routes, expanding the number of routes operating on weekends, expanding hours of operation on Sundays and holidays, and modernizing fare payment and planning and on-demand services by developing an integrated app and making transit free for youth under 12 in an effort to build public transit habits.
Currently, transit is free for children under five.
That goal has been identified as one of the most quickly implementable if the plan is approved by council.
Another ESF goal involves increasing the use of low emission vehicles .
As such, the transit plan proposes completely electrifying its bus fleet by 2039. As part of that timeline, it proses the first seven of those be purchased and operating in the year 2024.
The city says that implementing all of its short-term goals, including increasing route frequency and hours of operation and purchasing the first seven electric buses would cost around $80 million in total.
Council approval of the plan does not automatically commit the city to any of the proposed spending.
Yvette Crane, a member of the local environmental advocacy group Regina Energy Transition, applauded the proposed efforts to reduce the number of drivers on Regina roads but said her group would like to see the city go a step further and provide free transit to all of those under 18.
“We’re pushing for that to be expanded. Youth over 12, those are the ones who are travelling on their own and developing their habits for how they get themselves around,” said Yvette Crane.
“If they get used to taking public transit and requesting better public transit, then that’s going to have a huge impact.”
Bells said Tuesday that making transit free for all youth under 18 is something the city may consider in the future.
Crane added that while she understands the city’s desire to retire its operating diesel buses at the end of their natural lifespans, the city’s fleet would ideally become fully electrified sooner than 2039.
“There is some research out there that shows the overall benefits of resources and so on still favour moving to electric as soon as possible,” Crane said.
“We’d like to see that for the net-zero benefits and also for the immediate health benefits because the particulates that come out of diesel fuel are not good for anybody to be breathing in.”