Transit hub plan unveiled
By Colleen MacPherson
The University community recently got its first up-close look at plans for a revamped Saskatoon Transit system that includes a major new bus hub on campus.
At an open house March 29 that drew about 50 people, Colleen Yates, planning manager with the city’s Utility Services Department, said the overhaul of the system is an attempt to reverse the ridership loss recorded over the past few years, and to better serve those who do take the bus. In planning the changes, she said the city relied on a study of riders that revealed people do not like to transfer, they want to be able to ride from one side of the city to the other, and the two major destinations in Saskatoon are downtown and the University.
“That means we’ve got to bring a lot more buses to campus.”
To do that, a transit hub will be created in front of Place Riel to accommodate buses from all areas of the city. Facilities Management Division Planner Colin Hartl explained Campus Drive will be closed off in front of the building in order to make room for up to nine buses at a time on both sides of the street. The area will be restricted to service and emergency vehicles with loading, unloading and turn-around zones available at either end of the new hub where Bottomley and Wiggins meet Campus Drive.
The $300,000 project, to be paid for by the city, also includes moving the entrance to parking lot 1 to Wiggins, and installing pedestrian crossings for added safety, said Hartl.
Yates said the new bus service takes effect July 2 with the campus hub expected to be functioning by mid-August.
Richard Florizone, U of S vice-president of finance and resources, told the meeting Campus Drive in front of Place Riel will be closed to all but bus traffic in mid-May to prepare for the hub development. This also allows for feedback on the changes and a test of traffic flow patterns. He stressed the hub plans are a short-term solution as the University considers its options for the entire area.
“We hope to see some significant activity in this whole area of campus,” Florizone said. “In the short term, the goal is to enable the transit system and encourage the use of mass transit. In the long term, we know we need to add more undergraduate residence space and in the past six months, there’s been a recognition that the most attractive student spaces are the historic spaces on campus. We are starting to consider residences in the Place Riel area.”
The permanent location of the transit hub, new residences and increased green space will all be taken into account as the University weighs its options over the next 18-36 months for an area of campus Floizone described as “somewhat unsightly.”
A number of questions were put to officials at the open house, including some about drop-off and pick-up areas, and awkward access to existing parking lots. Hartl said while the hub plan serves to increase transit flow onto campus, “I’m not sure we’ve 100 per cent accommodated everyone with the concept.”
Asked about potential problems with high volumes of riders moving through the hub, Florizone said having “more people on campus is a good thing, but we will be monitoring (the hub) for security, visibility. We’re thinking about all those issues.”
To advertise the new services to students, staff and faculty, Yates said the city will be using media outlets both on and off campus, will be holding open houses throughout the city and will have staff on campus at the beginning of the academic year to answer questions.
“I think you’re going to see quite a blitz.”
Other features of the reconfigured transit system are: new routes that travel both directions on the same streets; routes providing uninterrupted service throughout the city; service to the airport; Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes with limited stops, 10-minute frequency at peak hours and 15-minute at off-peak times; and increased evening and weekend service.
Making mass transit a more viable option for more people “has a lot of benefits to society as a whole,” said Yates, “and I think with these changes, we’ll have a much better transit system for the city.”