To the Editor:
I am writing in response to your editorial dated March 20 regarding the bus fare hike proposed at the last meeting of council. This article suggests the resolution to raise fees “seems a lot like a way to doom the transit service to fail and get rid of it without actually being up front and honest…” I spoke in favour of the resolution and gave clear and practical reasons for supporting it, none of which involved scheming to end bus service delivery.
The editorial is correct in saying there are less fortunate people who rely on bus service in this community. What was not mentioned was the fixed income individuals and families working hard to make ends meet who expect their tax dollars handled with respect. Also not mentioned were the kids and families out a pool because of a failure to maintain it. A recent editorial of the Thompson Citizen condemned the lack of accountability that resulted in our pool shutting down and suggested that poor planning and maintenance as well as a lack of communication were to blame. Why do we not expect the same for bus services? The current service has two Thompson-owned transit buses out of service with hefty repair bills, poor ridership (other than students as the School District of Mystery Lake is paying for the fares until April) and broken bus shelters. This system, as it is, is unsustainable.
The editor chose to use numbers from 2017 citing a $6 ridership cost and complained at the lack of transparency at city hall. They chose not to cite the numbers I provided during the council meeting Monday. Bus service for 15 days of February cost this city $30,000. This does not include the cost of maintaining shelters, the cost of handi-transit, the cost of the buses the city owns or the repairs those buses require. The true cost per ride to provide the current transit system is staggering.
Accountability has to start somewhere. Taxpayers are on the hook for over 85 per cent of the costs of busing. Citizens, and this newspaper, have called for accountability at city hall. The resolution was an attempt to start here and now at being accountable to this city. The biggest disaster possible to this system would be to settle on a system and then raise the rates to watch ridership fall after being locked into a long-term contract.
Coun. Jeff Fountain
Editor’s Note: A Thompson Citizen reporter asked the City of Thompson March 19 for ridership numbers, fares collected and operational costs of the transit system for 2018 and for February of this year. The response from the communciations officer was that the city is currently collecting that information for the public leading up to a public meeting in April and that the city would provide those numbers if they are available before then.