It has been over a year since the first lockdown was put into effect following the COVID-19 outbreak. The outbreak has caused the closure of numerous systems and the modification of others.
I wanted to find out how the pandemic has affected the use of Peterborough Transit, especially for students. What changes have been made to Peterborough Transit? How have these changes seriously impacted students’ experience with transit? Do students even feel safe using transit despite its COVID regulations?
Following the lockdown orders enforced in the small city of Peterborough, public transit was one of the sectors that was not shut down completely, however, it was modified.
The changes to transit are to ensure its smooth running while still abiding by the COVID-19 regulations to protect members of the community.
Many members of the community have expressed concern for the lack of public involvement in the new transit decisions. Public consultation is very much needed as a mass number of people depend on transit.
Up until the December 2020 lockdown, Peterborough residents used transit with these new regulations. However, other residents of Peterborough like students of Trent University and Fleming College did not experience the impact of this change until they resumed their Fall semester in the early weeks of September.
The changes made to Peterborough’s transit services were put in place to abide by the COVID-19 rules of social distancing and wearing masks to protect the health of transit users as well as employees.
Despite the severity of the outbreak, the transit services have been amended and largely successful in assisting community members to keep safe in their day to day activities.
Compared to the previous system where all the buses arrived and departed at the Peterborough Downtown bus terminal, a number of buses have been rerouted to different bus stops. Also, the bus routes have been reduced from seventeen to nine and the buses drive by once an hour. An obvious reason for this change is to lessen the numbers of buses and riders converging at the terminal.
According to the City of Peterborough website, there has been an addition of three community bus routes that ride through crucial places like the medical and shopping centres. The transit services also promote the use of masks and frequent sanitizing of hands.
It is also noteworthy to mention that the express buses that served Trent students have been cancelled. Known as the Trent Express, these buses drove directly from the Trent campus to the bus terminal where students would then take the appropriate bus to their destination.
The Trent Express had stops along the way but would have to reach the downtown terminal for students who had to take a different route.
The elderly adults and students require transit services for their day to day transportation. With the new change, there has been a largely positive experience among students living on campus at Trent University. Students have still been able to go to grocery stores like Walmart and other places in the downtown area. Observation shows the mass convergence has indeed been low and social distancing is practiced.
In a brief interview with a third year Trent student, Leah Ripley, who currently resides on campus, nothing much has changed for her in general. She says “I live on campus but in the apartment buildings so I need to get groceries. Transit has still been accessible. You can look up the routes and times. They are all available online.”
Asking Leah again what she thinks this would mean for other people moving forward, she concludes, “it depends on the place I am going. It’s easier to go to direct places like Walmart or Shoppers where I pick up my prescriptions. But I still think Trent Express is easier for students that come to campus but live off campus.”
Another interview was conducted with an off campus student, Madelin Gennaro. She is pleased that Peterborough Transit added their routes to Google maps. She continues, “I’m not sure if they did this because of COVID-19 but my transit experience has been a lot better since I know exactly when the bus is coming and it finds all of the possible routes for me.”
“As an off campus student,” Madelin commented, “there are many bus stops that are within walking distance to my house and there are several bus stops on most blocks so it's easy for most people to access transit.”
Though there have been a lot of positive reviews about the transit experience, Madelin does share her unsafe feelings with using transit after the COVID changes. She adds, “lately I haven't felt safe since the numbers of COVID-19 are going up, I prefer walking to places or carpooling with my housemates. Once the case numbers go down, I will definitely start using transit more since the busses are usually on time and the drivers are friendly.”
Some negative outcries have been heard especially following the changes to bus routes and times. Cutting down on the number of routes and bus times has a direct implication for many people. They now have to wait for longer periods at the bus stops or terminal and a longer time to arrive at their destination.
Another student who lives off campus and chose to remain anonymous for the interview says, “I think it is very impractical to let buses drive by once an hour especially during this cold season. I missed a bus one day and had to wait for a very long time for the next to come. It was dreadful! It does not happen every time though but it was still horrible.” She carried on, saying, “I do understand that some of these changes have to be made because of COVID-19 and I respect the bus drivers that put their lives on the line. It just gets really uncomfortable sometimes having to deal with all of these things as someone who relies on Public transportation to get anywhere.”
This is indeed important to take note of because when compared to the number of buses that run to the Trent and Fleming Campus, it is a bit illogical to have that many buses running there while a number of students are schooling from home.
It is confirmed that a smaller number of students applied to and live in residence when compared to the numbers pre-COVID-19. In a way, students that live on campus, though lesser in number, are more likely to get a bus easier than students who live off campus.
With the undecided future and ongoing outbreak of the virus, it is evident the City will continue its COVID-19 friendly system of transportation. Still being able to reach crucial places during this pandemic is important for all.
Everyone contacted for this article was still able to access the city bus as a means of transportation. Though the system and routes might change post COVID-19, the residents of Peterborough have still benefited from the current change.
For more information on Peterborough transit, please visit: https://www.peterborough.ca/en/city-services/routes-and-schedules.aspx Or download the app “Moovit” or “Transit” for the nearest bus stops according to your locations and bus times.
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