The future of mass transit is grim on the prairies

The role of public transit in Saskatchewan is important to its citizens, whether it be city or rural, but with the provincial budget and environmental framework plans of cities, it’s not clear how this need will be fulfilled. 

In 2018, the Sask party shut down the STC bus system which caused public outrage and confusion. It affected both rural and municipal people and the federal government had to step in and provide $250 million a year for some form of provincial transit.

With Scott Moe’s recent comments on Saskatchewan’s per capita emissions where he stated, “I don’t care” the responsibility and burden of climate change is left on the shoulders of the cities.

Ryan Meili, leader of Sask NDP tweeted, “the premier has repeatedly shown he doesn’t care about people’s lives, now he’s saying the quiet part loud.

Despite the city of Regina’s energy and sustainability framework being passed the 2022 transit budget went up merely $1 million from 2021. 

Regina city council passed its energy and sustainability framework in March and highlighted two initiatives with transit in the coming years, which are “on-demand transit” and “electrify all city busses”. 

“We have been piloting on-demand routes with very positive results. This program really is about using data technology and innovation to perform route optimization,” said Cara Simpson, a city official. “In addition to saving operating costs from an energy and sustainability standpoint, this results in fuel efficiency and reduction.”

Part two of the plan is simply to electrify all buses, although the city’s plan is vague when it comes to the specifics of how this will benefit climate change action. Where these busses will be getting their electricity from and whether it will be from coal or a more renewable source is yet to be determined. 

“As buses come to the end of life, with the completion of this switch occurred in 2039,” said Simpson. “We’ve optimized our replacement schedule to ensure that we continue to use existing buses until the end of their useful life. This is consistent with what other cities have done.”

Consistent with other cities can be different depending on where one looks. Edmonton for example laid out a mass transportation plan in 2020 and has done several studies on the importance of mass transportation in the city.

What some experts consider to be one of the most integral parts of fighting climate change (mass public transportation), the Sask party and the city of Regina do not appear to be implementing anything meaningful towards this cause.

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