Jumping on a bus pays off

Michael Roschlau wants to see more buses put to work on city streets. Doing so would create more jobs and lower long-term health-care costs across the country, said the Canadian Urban Transit Association CEO.

Michael Roschlau wants to see more buses put to work on city streets.

Doing so would create more jobs and lower long-term health-care costs across the country, said the Canadian Urban Transit Association CEO.

Last week, the association met in Whitehorse for its annual executive committee meeting.

Friday, it released a report outlining the economic benefits of government investment in public transit.

Putting more buses on the road alleviates traffic congestion, decreases pollution and saves the Canadian health-care system $115 million annually, said Roschlau.

It also creates $5 billion in disposable income for people who take transit and don’t pay for gas and vehicle repairs.

Even smaller cities like Whitehorse can benefit from improved transit systems, he said.

By incorporating transit lines into new subdivisions, more people can ride the bus.

And creating consistent schedules means more people will choose to leave their cars behind.

“A timetable that people can remember is key to people taking the bus,” said Roschlau.

It’s even more important than offering more frequent service.

This fall, the city introduces its new transit loop system which will shave up to 30 minutes off travel times.

The system will feature express routes, better connections between subdivisions and buses that run on regular scheduled routes, such as every 30 minutes.

In the new year, council will decide whether they want to pay an additional $650,000 each year for the upgrades.

The biggest barrier to improving transit infrastructure is stimulus funding, said Roschlau.

The federal government, provinces and territories need to pony up more money for municipal bus services, he said.

The second barrier is actually getting people on the bus.

Breaking people’s dependency on cars can be tough, Roschlau admits.

The association has worked with seniors in Lethbridge, Alberta, who have never set foot on a bus in their lives.

But the upcoming generation of Canadians has a different outlook on transit, he said.

Young people aren’t as vehicle dependent as their parents were 20 years ago.

They also value the environment and are more likely to take transit if they know it will decrease fuel emissions.

Check out the transit association’s report at www.cutaactu.c.

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