Wal Mart Bus

I want to write some reflections on the city’s decision to provide transportation to the Wal Mart Supercentre in the Grasslands development at Harbour Landing.

I cannot decide if providing bus service to Wal Mart is a good thing over all or a piece of favouritism to the largest company in the world.

To its credit, the city has seen a lack of access to a store which sells low-cost goods.  Lack of access could negatively affect people with reduced transportation options and lower incomes.  In a piece on the News Talk 980 website, Mayor Fiacco says the decision to add the shuttle route is due to transit customer demand.

I know the Southland is popular with many seniors.  Perhaps some grey power is behind this?  There are a few high density residential developments around the Southland where seniors may live and walk to the mall.  Seniors are also often transit users.

The access and speed for transit users from the inner city or downtown may mean the Southland Wal Mart was a quicker trip than the North East or Vic East options.  I know from experience that the bus trip to the Vic East shopping area from downtown is a long one.  The trip to the north-west, however, would be easier, for anyone near Albert Street, north of Dewdney, than going south.

Generally, providing public transit access to retail no matter if it is for marginalized groups or not is something expected of the transit service as the city expands.  In this instance (News Talk [link above]reports May as the date for transit expansion into the Grasslands at Harbour Landing) the service is coming sooner and more directly than anticipated.

On the other hand, the Southland Mall provides stores which could serve almost the same  range of products as a Wal Mart.  Perhaps missing are automotive repair, hardware, and toys.  Buses heading to Southland would pass by Canadian Tire down Albert Street though, so some of the missing services could be found only three or four blocks to the north of the mall.

I suppose the main argument is that the city should not route transit to support one private business (there are other shops/restaurants in the Wal Mart) who decide to locate in a greenfield site.  The Canadian Taxpayers Federation also sites the $70 000 cost to taxpayers as unfair support to one business (News Talk 980 [link above]).  Who else should get their own bus route?   Apparently with enough interest, $70 000 is at any group’s whim if you make a loud enough point.

So, in the end, I don’t know the answer.

I wanted to write this because I felt aggrieved when reading the schedule for the Wal Mart shuttle that it runs every half hour until midnight.  Anyone who takes the bus after 9pm knows that half-hour service is not provided after that hour.  Just yesterday I ducked into a local bar near Vic Park for 10-15 minutes so I would not have to wait outside for 25-30 minutes for the bus home after my movie finished.  I don’t like going into establishments without any intention of supporting them, but it’s better than being cold.  There are only 2-3 establishments/warm places near the park open to the public after 9pm.

At times, its faster to walk to my house from downtown than take the bus after 9pm.  I’ve even tied the bus walking from Vic Park to the University, one night when a 45-50 minute wait downtown seemed like a worse idea than 45-50 minute walk to where I wanted to go.

I understand the Wal Mart route is simple, and allows for more consistent service after 9pm because of it, with one bus doing a loop.  Still, it stings a little to know that Wal Mart’s business needs are more important than my citizen needs.  That could be the problem intirely; that my needs are out-of-step with what Reginans want.

Regardless of my transit needs, the question remains: is it true in every case the city will give preferential treatment to one business in a few months based on “transit user demand?”  Another interesting question to ponder is how important Wal Mart is to this city?  This service suggests it is very important to the citizens of Regina.

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Wal Mart Bus

7 thoughts on “Wal Mart Bus

  1. Barb Saylor says:

    One major reason for the shuttle is to transport WalMart employees to and from work. The #14 bus, Ross Industrial Park, was instituted for the same reason. The Community Services Village bus (#17) was instituted to make the Food Bank and its services more accessible; its schedule was determined by the Food Bank’s operating hours. The university-SIAST buses were instituted to help students from all over town to reach their destination more quickly and directly. The Rochdale feeder (#16), and indeed the Argyle Park extended route to the Sobey’s, WalMart, and Superstore up on Rochdale, were intended to make the businesses in that part of town easier to reach. The Heritage bus, #15, was laid on for the benefit of all the seniors who live in the concentration of seniors’ complexes near downtown, like to shop in the Cathedral area (and this business community is forever complaining about access), and who visit the General Hospital—and the transit map for #15 is in bigger print! And, finally, every bus that goes to the downtown, from whatever corner of the city, benefits the downtown. So, a lot of concerns have “their own bus route”.
    It helps to have some perspective and some backstory when one discusses this topic. The CTF is notorious for lacking both.

    1. wourliem says:

      Thank you for the response,

      You are correct about there being other routes to particular destinations.

      I disagree with you, however, that the routes you mention are analogous to the Wal Mart bus other than in route type. Firstly, a buses like #14, #2 and #5 Uplands have a similar type of route, but they service an area not one business. I do not know where the bus lets off but no one has called it the Harbour Landing shuttle.

      The Heritage and Rochdale Feeder have very different route path but again both serve various businesses within whole neighbourhoods.

      The #17 bus and U of R I think are closer examples to the Wal Mart Shuttle. The U of R buses travel quite a long route and could serve other places; if you lived by Sherwood Mall it might be faster to take it downtown than your local for example.

      The community services bus is really the only one that is similar in its directness and purpose. The question then is: is providing access to the Regina Food Bank and other various social programs via route #17 the same as having access to a Wal Mart?

      I don’t see that access to the food bank is equal access to one Wal Mart. Wal Mart made a business decision to locate outside the range of current transit access. The city is going catch up to Harbour Landing and the Grasslands in May, however, Wal Mart moved out of their accessible location three months before the city’s plan.

      The city does not generally route buses for the convenience of workers. Before the new Sunday schedule, buses would regularly stop running before work would end downtown. That has been fixed, to the city’s credit, but how long did it take?

      You use the #14 bus as an example of providing transport for workers. This is probably the case, but the route passes by many businesses not a Wal Mart and the Albert Park Plaza. The Albert Park Plaza already has bus access with routes #7 and #9 where as no other bus than #14 goes to Ross Industrial.

      I do agree with you generally about the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. They always get hung up on numbers, regardless of the good it may provide. In this instance, $70 000 seems like a lot of money. That sum may seem grand, but I’m sure its a true reflection of the costs of transit. I think it is helpful to see glimpses of costs, like in this instance, because it serves to remind people that buses aren’t cheap to run.

    2. Jarvis Black says:

      OK all this talk of the “Wal-Mart shuttle” got me to looking at the bus maps and wondering …. why doesn’t the 7/9 just go there? It already goes really close …. we are talking just a few blocks away. I know this would make riding those busses a little longer trip for some areas but I am really wondering whether we need a WHOLE EXTRA BUS out there just to go between Southland and Wal-Mart. I don’t doubt that people will use it … but every half-hour until midnight? I am betting that it will be empty on quite a few trips.

  2. Barb Saylor says:

    Thank you, for yours. I forgot to mention, in my first post, that when the Food Bank opened at its present location, it petitioned City Council for direct bus service or for modification of the #1 Broad North – Dieppe route, so that clients could reach the place more easily. The argument was that the Food Bank had to take whatever building they could find in order to do their work, and unfortunately the most suitable one was off bus routes. (You could call that a business decision, I suppose; then-Councillor Bill Gray did.) The existing #1 route was modified to run along 3rd Ave. North and Quebec Street on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., to let off/pick up passengers on 2nd Ave. North, not far from the Food Bank. The major drawback was that passengers had to cross the railway tracks and Winnipeg Street to get to and from the place; also, the route ran only one way, so the ride was a long one. The automotive and glass businesses along the modified route became more accessible, however.
    On rereading the original post, I note that its inspiration was the shuttle’s hours of operation. I too have had either a long wait, or had to duck out of an event earlier than I wished to, in order to catch a bus on the 1-hour evening schedule. I have had long walks home after Sunday’s closing performance of the Regina Folk Festival, what with the buses having stopped running at about the time the evening program began. A realist, I knew that if the demand had been there, so would the service be, so I didn’t whinge about my personal needs not being met. The demand, otherwise known as critical mass, has to be there. Critical mass has achieved the $15 discount pass, modified/newly developed bus routes (including #14), the University – SIAST routes, the Community Services bus, the revised Sunday hours, and the southwest shuttle. Critical mass may yet result in a universal fee-supported UPass for post-secondary students.
    Next time the City calls for board and commission volunteers, maybe it would be good to put in for the Transit Commission. Be the change you want, if I may paraphrase.

    1. wourliem says:

      Reflecting on Jarvis Black’s comment about route #7/9 and yours on Broad North #1, I think there are already routes that could be modified rather than adding new routes. In the case of #7/9 I think for a period of months before the Harbour Landing route takes shape, such a change could be costly, for example revamping the schedule. The bus could cross Lewvan by request, but again as the mayor suggests, if the demand is great enough that could potentially mean every bus crossing.

      With Broad North, looking at the transit map I feel like access is alright along 2nd Avenue North. There are rail tracks (I don’t know how common trains are) but the walk is only a block or two. So it would seem to me that access should be ok. Clearly others feel it is not and there is enough demand for a specific route.

      I would agree with former councilor Grey the Food Bank made a business decision to locate there, but a key difference between Wal Mart and the Regina Food Bank are financial resources.

      If we accept the rational that this Wal Mart bus is demand driven from the population then it seems there is a critical mass of Reginans who find direct access to Wal Mart The fact only the Community Services Village and U of R direct buses seem to also have such a mass say some interesting things about Regina.

      I can’t claim to know everything about the transit system, so I don’t know what levels of rider ship or how many complaints to the mayors office start to coalesce into a critical mass. I know extending Sunday service had been a long battle with many different groups pushing for it.

      I too realize that service requires some demand. Certainly one route I can take home, if demand were the only prerequisite for service, probably would stop running south of College Avenue at 7 pm every night for all the people who use it. Others, I’m sure, could use more frequent trips with greater demand.

      The system doesn’t run that way. Overall it has regular routes that run consistently throughout the day and a few special routes which run during business hours for critical social institutions in the city with enough demand for service. Except for the Wal Mart bus. The Wal Mart bus runs more often then any other single bus, to one private business that, with no economic constraints, choose to locate outside of current transit service.

      Maybe fairness can’t be expected in transit any longer. The City’s been able to provide service, for a limited time, to Wal Mart that they can’t match elsewhere. A more demand based model, with emphasis on direct routes might be the way transit will move (there is apparently a new transit plan or vision from the city). It maybe unrealistic but sometimes I feel like the equality of access from City Transit is an important thing.

  3. Barb – I think you make a good point (here and on the Dog Blog) about critical mass. I often feel that there are a lot of people who want change, but that they just need to join forces with eachother instead of appearing diffuse.

    I also wonder how far critical mass can really go to making things change. Many people spoke out about the change in Sunday bus routes and the inconvenience that it may cause to seniors in particular, who rely heavily on transit. I was at one council meeting and both community representatives and transit workers said that changing the routes would leave people stranded (especially in the winter). That didn’t really change what the outcome was (for financial, or other reasons).

    I suppose I am curious to hear your thoughts about balancing the constraints of funding/policy vs. critical mass. In your experience as a public official if someone offers money for a particular service, facility, or program, how do you balance that opportunity with public opinion/critical mass?

    1. Barb Saylor says:

      Not having been born and raised in Regina, I have always shaken my head at how much people here complain. They complain about the status quo, and they complain just as heartily when attempts are made to change it. They also have a strong tendency to see trees instead of the forest — a good recent example being the failure of the U-Pass referendum at the U of R. Most of the students who bothered to vote said “It doesn’t suit me, so no.” Seems to me that echoes a number of voices raised in re: the changes made in the hours and routes of Sunday transit. Similar voices will be raised by businesses/residential homeowners located on major thoroughfares in re: dedicated bus lanes (no more onstreet parking). Some seniors also complained about the institution of the discount bus pass, if my memory serves.
      To answer your question: you do the best you can with what you have, including information. You keep an ear to the ground, and you keep an eye peeled for agendas.
      Hope that helps.

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