How can we re-think transportation in Saskatoon? Without of focusing on cars, parking, and the transporting of goods. Maybe if we focus instead on Public transportation. Saskatoon Transit has vast social and political significance as a powerful tool for accessibility in our city. We need transit to function well on the level of everyday experience but it also needs to provide opportunities for people to connect in a way that no other mode of transportation can. But first we must acknowledge that the current transit system is failing us on multiple scales. That is because buses and bus stops are not thought of as important multiple-use community centres, as places for children or where neighbors and strangers can have conversations.
It is a given that traffic and road capacity improvements come along with population growth. But they are also the result of designing and organizing communities around the private automobile. It is a proven fact that road construction (and likely automobile bridge construction) actually increases traffic. It also causes a de-concentration of economic activity when it is moved to suburbs that are only accessible by car. Because of the assumption that the car was and always would be the first choice in Saskatoon, it has been designed to meet mobility needs rather than human needs like social interaction, physical activity, or a connection to place. Unless this changes, Saskatoon will continue to have a few isolated great places linked with car-dominated connections, sprawl, poor physical health, social isolation, and low-income communities.
Many of our generation’s most pressing challenges are bound in some way to our relationship with our modes of transportation. Reduced physical activity is a leading cause of obesity and chronic disease. There is widespread social isolation and depression. Increased vehicle emissions have degraded air quality and contributed to the greenhouse gases causing climate change. We can conclude that a lack of transportation options for many communities has caused uneven access to jobs, social services, healthy food options, and community interaction. Clearly, we need to start thinking seriously about how we can reverse these trends and think of public transportation as a place for culture, creativity, and community. How can public transportation not just be about places to go but also be about places to be? How can we enhance the bus stops and on bus experience?
The Better Transit YXE movement wants to help people begin to see public transportation in its entirety: not just its function in transporting people and goods. Because buses play a vital role in animating the social and economic life of communities. This will be a process… citizens reclaiming public transportation, participating in civic life, and having a direct impact on how their transit spaces look, function, and feel.
Maybe one day Saskatoon City Council will realize that public transportation is a right, not an option or privilege that only a fortunate few can enjoy.
Together, we can turn our transit system into an interactive, functional, and fulfilling experience for everyone.
This post was inspired by by Project for Public Spaces. http://www.pps.org