Tuesday, 29 July 2014, 8:39 am

Niagara Transit hits a few potholes

A new Rider’s Guide has been made due to all the changes implemented to Niagara Falls Transit. PHOTO BY KAITLIN TIESSENBy KAITLIN TIESSEN
Staff Writer
Change is not easy to accept.
Many Niagara Falls citizens are experiencing this problem with the recent changes made to Niagara Falls Transit routes after over 35 years.
As of Jan. 5, Niagara Falls Transit made changes to the whole system. These include: new routes, schedules, route numbers, bus stop signage, Rider’s Guides, a new transfer system onto the WEGO Red Line, and a new transfer policy.
Dave Stuart, general manager, says they started the processing of route structures in 2008. “The city has changed and continues to evolve, but the routes didn’t evolve with this change.”
Melissa Garner, 31, of Niagara Falls, grabbed a copy of the new Travel Guide to figure out what route she could take to get to work and avoid a headache. Garner says for her to make it to work on time it takes a total of an hour and 15 minutes. “This trip includes two transfers and a half hour wait for the second bus. I used to be able to hop on the bus and make it straight to my destination in only about a half hour.”
Prior to the change, Stuart says that there were a total of 1,784,801 passenger trips in 2012.
This represents the number of trips people have taken on Niagara Falls Transit services including the services provided to Niagara College and Brock campuses, as well as services to Fort Erie. With no route or schedule changes taking place in 2013, the total value hasn’t changed dramatically from 2012.
Stuart says they implemented the change to focus on “emerging” areas. Transit ambassadors began riding the buses on Dec. 9, 2013 until Jan. 12 to inform and provide riders with an understanding of the new system, as well as record issues and complaints.
“There are as many people ecstatic about the routes as not, but when they’re mad, they’ll call.”
Although time was taken to explain the new bus routes, lots of confusion still remains.
Curtis Parton, 21, lives in the city and takes the Niagara Falls Transit regularly to attend classes at Niagara College’s Welland campus. Parton says the route changes force him to walk 45 minutes to the bus stop because there aren’t any transfer busses that would get him to the terminal on time.
“It’s ridiculous that they even thought this would be a smart idea. I never had a problem with the old routes.”
Many Niagara College students purchase U>Passes with their tuition. The U>Pass allows people to take all of Niagara Transit for free throughout the academic year. Now that the busses have changed, the U>Pass is of little convenience to these struggling students.
Jim Diodati, Niagara Falls mayor, rode the new system after receiving many complaints.
“First things first, I’m not normally a bus user, however, I did use the bus for school.” Diodati says the only way to understand the problems is to become a customer.
“I had the opportunity to talk to people waiting for busses, receiving feedback right from them.”
Diodati says it took him an hour to get to work with the new system. He walked 15 minutes to the bus stop, had one transfer point, with the bus ride taking about 45 minutes.
“There has been a lot of confusion and misunderstandings because the public wasn’t looking at alternatives.”
Diodati says a lot of the problems people were having were fixed with explanation. “Some people just need to go a different way.”
This has been a common answer; there is an alternate route people can take. However, Stuart says an old couple that lives on Orchard Avenue is now forced to walk to a stop on Dunn Street as their old stop no longer exists. For some it is not an option to walk 10 to 20 minutes to a bus stop.
Diodati states that they are not finished “fixing it.” On paper, it looks worked out but it didn’t go exactly as expected. Diodati made reference to designing a house, when you begin to build the house some of the outcomes don’t work as they did on paper. “Things aren’t always the way you design it.”
Crystal Craig, 24, says her co-worker also ran into problems with the busses when trying to get to work. Craig says when they first implemented the new routes she wasn’t aware of all the changes.
“Her first attempt with the new routes caused her to be over an hour late for work. She had to stand outside for over 40 minutes in -20 degree weather.”
Craig explains that once she figured out how the new routes work, she still came to the conclusion that she would be forced to leave an hour earlier so that she can make it to the Pen Centre, which is her place of work.
Stuart says they will be taking in this information over the next month; they had a meeting on Jan. 17 as well as another on Jan. 20 to debrief.
“We knew we weren’t going to hit a homerun right off the bat. We have to stay on course, collect all the information from our customers and make the necessary fine-tuning to keep the service evolving in step with our community. It is never an easy, but necessary initiative.”
There is a 24-hour number to call when experiencing questions about alternate routes and bus schedules (905)-356-7521 ext. 4500. This number is for standard questions only.
Stuart says supervisor’s extensions are not given; only clerks will put someone through to a supervisor if it is deemed an emergency.
“Supervisors are not always here, sometimes they are already out to help with an emergency.”
For more information on the new system, visit www.niagarafalls.ca/transit.

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