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  • Writer's pictureKelly Allard

March 1 2021 City Council Meeting

(What a gorgeous evening for a city council meeting - I was walking from the bus terminal to city hall. We do have a very beautiful downtown!)

Highlights were reports from Environmental Utilities and from Manager of Transit Mike Spicer re the On Demand Transit system.

Environmental Utilities Report on Replacement of Aging Underground Pipes Environmental Utilities (EU) outlined which mains were in poor/very poor condition are in better condition than ones installed decades later. (Apparently concrete installed in the 70s doesn't hold up as well as old clay ones.) The lifespan of piping is considered to be 50-100 yrs. If we use the 100 year valuation, then 1% would need to be replaced every year at a cost of $47 million (est. replacement cost of existing piping is $4.7 billion). Right now, EU spends a fraction of that by being selective at what they replace.

EU described the reasoning for how they choose what to replace. First, they identify which are the worst, regardless of the age. They coordinate with other departments to see if any work is planned so they only have to disrupt a neighbourhood once.

This makes sense, it's like they are using a triage technique like medical facilities do. One councilor voiced the frustrations of residents who've been waiting for the pipe replacement for a long time. My response to them would be this - an ER does not take who has waited the longest, they take who is closest to death. (When I took my husband to the ER in late December 2016, the waiting room was full; they took him first. I no longer complain about ER wait times.) Available money available is limited, we must triage. When things improve maybe we can add optional projects and speed up the replacement.

Another councilor said that we are doing better than much worse cities in Canada (I would hope so!), he said some cities lose more water than their residents use from pipes breaking. That is an issue as well, we can't wait too long. We have no idea of the condition of most of the pipes right now.

I would like to know the condition of all the pipes, what is the timeline to inspect all of them? From the map provided, I estimate they don't know the condition of 50-60% of them.I tried to post the map but I am an amateur; I will post when I figure it out. Meanwhile, it is on page 8 or 15 (enter 15 in the page count box in the task bar at the top of the pdf screen and you'll get there) of the March 1 2021 agenda packet found on the city website. Use the link below.

Transit Report on MHT Now On Demand App

The report about the MHT Now On Demand App from Manager of Transit Services Mike Spicer showed that they saved considerable money plus wear and tear on the vehicles which is great. I also love the Double Map App which shows where the buses are in real time, that is brilliant. Mr Spicer also shared how the On Demand App can provide better service for Special Transit too, users would be able to book much sooner. Right now they must book at least 24 hours in advance and there is no wiggle room. If you book it for a doctor's appointment and your doctor runs late, you are SOL. Imagine the freedom that would bring the users!

There was speculation that once the Special Transit users could use the app that they could possibly do away with Special Transit altogether. I would be against that. My late husband Carl used the service once. They fast tracked his application so he could use it to get to a party in his honour. He had several medical devices attached to him; he was dying of cancer. The bus driver was fantastic - he took my husband aboard, he made sure Carl was secure in his wheelchair, made sure all attachments were secure and secured the wheelchair to the floor. Note the key word here, secure. As it turned out, it was my husband's last day on this planet, we could not have asked for a better last day. I submit we will always need some form of Special Transit for people like my late husband.

Special transit got Carl (and me as his attendant) to what turned out to be his Last Day at our Early Christmas party in October 2019 complete with tree, decorations, gifts for the grandkids, turkey, all the trimmings. (No way could we have a taken a regular bus, wheelchair taxis also require a day's notice in advance and would be much more expensive.) One of the kids even did a slideshow, he pretty much got to attend his own memorial. Special Transit returned us to the hospital, and we went to bed (I was able to bunk in with him); Carl was going to come home the next day. He took a turn for the worse that night and passed the next day. I miss that man dearly.

(Also in the pic, "Kid #4")

Mr Spicer also presented results of a survey of how users like the On Demand service, citing a 92% satisfaction rate. That is very impressive until you realize there was only 183 responses through the app, another 35 responses from other sources. (The 35 responses had a 50% satisfaction rate.)

So where do I start? If the numbers were statistically significant, when all responses are included, you get an 85% satisfaction rate. In a city of over 65,000 people you need far more than 218 responses to get any semblance of useful data. There was no info provided on how the survey was conducted, what they did to communicate the existence of the survey to the general public, nothing. They used a primarily passive approach, pretty much depending on the people who downloaded the app to use the in-app survey. Anybody who has taken even an introductory statistics course knows that is hardly a sufficient sample size, the sampling technique was useless, which makes the data provided useless.

As the old saying goes, "There are three types of lies. Lies, damn lies, and statistics." (Origin of phrase is fuzzy)

What I did not see was how they plan on increasing ridership after COVID. Mr Spicer spoke about how they were able to remove one entire bus from service during these days of decreased ridership and they were looking to remove more (I would hope service will be restored when COVID settles down). No word on expanding any routes to see service go to the Box Springs Business Park which includes Co-op Place. There are a lot of employers out there. Once we get service there, it is not much further to Redcliff but that is an issue for another day. I want to focus on fixing the transit service in Medicine Hat first.

Transit is a service, we are never, ever going to make money on it. However, efficient, usable transit is absolutely crucial to be able to attract new residents from larger centres now that we know many jobs can be done from home.

Residents of large cities are used to having an efficient transit system. My son likes to ride his bicycle and has used buses in other cities to take his bike to a destination. Many of his generation are very much into green transportation. Yes, of course they still use gas burning cars but they also want to reduce their reliance on them for many reasons - fitness, saving gas money, saving wear and tear on their vehicles, saving insurance costs if they only use it for pleasure and of course saving the planet. If the streets are relatively clear, my son will even bike in weather that would have most of us hiding indoors, others equip their bikes to ride in the snow. (I will not get into whether going green is a good or bad thing, I am merely reporting what the 30 somethings are doing. We would be fools to ignore it.)

What a view! This is the Helen Beny Gibson Lounge, a hidden little gem where I awaited the opening of the doors at the suggestion of the security guard. (I did not get her name but she was very kind.) It is open to the public. (From the Archives Society of Alberta website - "Politician, Community worker, 1902- . Helen (Beny) Gibson graduated from the University of Alberta in 1924 with a Bachelor of Arts. She was active in student activities, especially basketball, being a member of the University team and, after her graduation, the Varsconas. The Gibson family moved to Medicine Hat, where Mrs. Gibson became a member of the Separate School Board, an alderman, and a community worker. In 1967 she received an honorary LLD from the University of Alberta, and in 1973, the Order of Canada.")

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