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Town Council, Tuesday, October 30, 2012 To: Adrian Kawun (AdrianKawun@york.ca), Acting Manager, Service Planning, York Region Transit Cc: MayorAndCouncillors@TownofWS.ca From: Arnold Neufeldt-Fast Date: October 26, 2013 Friday, October 26, 2012 Dear Mr. Kawun (cc: Mayor and Councillors), I notice that you will be presenting the new YRT 2013 Service Plan to Town Council on Tuesday. Because the public does not have an opportunity to raise questions of delegations to council, I hope it is acceptable for me to write an email in advance (perhaps you could send me a copy of your presentation). I trust that you will be able to address some of the following concerns in your presentation: * Analysis of ridership data and comparison with last year. Mr. McNeely (Director of Planning and Building, Town of Whitchurch Stouffville) told me last Spring that you are now able to track how many get on and off at each stop and at what time of day. What has changed since last year and what is your analysis? Does the analysis take into account the fact that some no longer take the YRT to the hospital transit hub because the changes have added 20 min to each trip? (that is my situation)? * What feedback have you received from customers and how will this inform the 2013 transit plan? E.g., last week there was a letter in the Sun-Tribune with a scheduling complaint. Last June those working the YRT booth at the Strawberry Festival told me they had received multiple complaints about the changes. I have also written about the consequences it has meant for my neighbourhood (N-W Stouffville) and others (see here). * How has this year's population growth impacted the 2013 transit plan? We have 2000 new residents in Stouffville since this time last year, or 1000 since your last report 6 months ago. I'm sure Mr. McNeely's office has given you exact information in this regard. Some towns are stable over years (e.g., Stratford, Ontario); Stouffville however is
growing at a rapid pace. The Service Plan for our community must be updated significantly each year. * What are options with respect to low-ridership? I would argue that we need better routes (not fewer) picking up people where they live and getting them to where they need to go. At this point of Stouffville's development, most of us need to leave town for work each day. Last Spring I was not satisfied with the answer of service cut-backs because of low ridership; what other options are there? * How is the YRT Service Plan for our town coordinated with GO-Transit (esp. the GO-Bus)? Not all of us need to get to Downtown Toronto, but some of need to get deep into Markham and transfer. Is the 2013 YRT Transit Plan for Stouffville an integrated plan with GO-Transit? If not, when can this happen? * What can the community do in partnership with the YRT to help us all become more connected? Last spring I forwarded a "brain-storming" idea to you and council: "A positive campaign, supported by both the public and private sector, to inform and enable residents in the community of Stouffville to reduce automobile use and dependency." Would this be useful? Should the Town or the YRT take the lead? I know that there are also important successes/advances in the recent months that you should share with the community: * Google Maps Real Time Trip Planning. This is an excellent tool; congratulations! (Unfortunately I won't be able to use it because last Spring’s route changes added far too much time to my commute). * Highway 7 Rapid Transit Expansion: This is also exciting for me; this is the route that I need to travel for my work-commute. (Unfortunately, of little benefit for Stouffville residents if it takes too long to get to Hwy 7 with YRT, as is now the case). Above are some of the key questions I hope that you might address on Tuesday. Because I cannot raise the questions at council, I hope that our councillors will (I have cc'd them), and I trust that some lead time will help in this regard. Please know that the transit file is very important to Stouffville residents. Though there may be two or three individuals who phone the mayor's office "to get the empty buses off our roads," there are so many more of us in town who are very, very interested in making transit work for our town. Thanks for your efforts in these regards. Sincerely, Arnold Neufeldt-Fast
Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 Dear Mr. Kawun (et al.), Sorry to write again so soon; I just found the 2013 Service Plan online, including the two-pages on Whitchurch-Stouffville. I am quite surprised a) that it states "no concerns received." That is clearly not accurate, as Council knows, since I copied them on my correspondence to you and your office (beginning Mar 3, 2012 through April and June), and also had one letter to the editor published in the local paper based on that correspondence Moreover, I had an extensive conversation with your staff at the YRT Booth at the Strawberry Festival in town, who told me that they had received many complaints that day about the new cuts /changes in route (their job was to ask and get community feedback). (As an Associate Academic Dean, I tell students their course evaluations are absolutely critical for the improvement of our courses and programs, and each evaluation gets read and is part of a professor's annual review; our community needs to be assured that you are taking our responses seriously as well). So: there were concerns raised, and my questions (above) stand. I note that the 2013 Service Plan makes does nothing with Rt. 9 (which is most problematic for reasons mentioned below), but also cuts Rt 414 School Special. With that cut, the town loses one critical morning rush-hour bus from Parkview (at 7:16 am) south to the hospital. This makes my questions below even more pertinent. As the Mayor and Council know, our business leaders have named transit (specifically getting to and from Stouffville) as a major concern. The King + Whitchurch-Stouffville Cultivating Business Report (June 2012) named transit as one of the top 5 "barriers to the expansion of existing businesses" (p. 13); it tops the list for services needed (p. 14, after farm supply store), and is a key barrier to attract new immigrant employees (p. 44). The YRT offers great potential for Stouffville, both for those who live here and need to leave town for work, and for those businesses who need new immigrant employees (typically with lower wages; can't live in Stouffville). As you know, our town is the third fastest growing municipality in Canada--with almost all homes built in transit supportable dense neighbourhoods. Now the plan is to cut more transit support, even though we've received 2000 new residents in the past year. I trust that the Mayor and Council will ask hard questions on Tuesday for the sake of our community’s transit needs. Yes, there are surely some empty buses driving around. But I'm convinced the YRT has not yet figured out our town and understood where people live and where they want to go. Once that happens, we have a great chance for vibrant, well-used transit. To that end, customers need to be listened to when they give ideas. Sincerely, Arnold Neufeldt-Fast
(from March 2012) Transit support I am very concerned with the Region's proposal to reduce public transit service in Stouffville (combining routes 15 and 9 - see York Region Transit / Viva 2012 Service Plan, slide 30). For public transit to work well, Route 9 has to get our town's transit riders to the Markham-Stouffville hospital transit hub fast (I use this route semiregularly from Millard; I see other professionals doing this as well). If this bus must now meander around town (east-west), it will be essentially useless for commuters. If more development up 9th to Bethesda, then Route 9 must be dedicated as a N/S bus, and Route 15 must bring residents from the "densest" corners of Stouffville to this route.
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