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.