Battle for a bus stop

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A student makes the trek from the Luther College bus stop to the FNUniv.

A student makes the trek from the Luther College bus stop to the FNUniv.

Students who attend the First Nations University are fed up

Article: Adam Gamble – Contributor

Attending class at the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) remains a difficult task for students who take the bus.

Since being built in 2002, FNUniv has never had a bus stop to accommodate its students.

Students either have to catch a bus to the Riddell Centre, Classroom Building or Luther College and walk the remaining distance. The Luther College stop is the closest – 230 meters away from FNUniv. The other stops, however, are on the opposite side of the University of Regina (U of R) campus.

According to FNUniv Communications Director, Rocelle Kooy, “It is difficult to know why a bus stop was never built, considering there have been many changes over the years, including administration.”

Before Kooy became staff at FNUniv in 2012, at least one inquiry had already been made.

During the 2005-2006 school year, Adam Martin, a former Indian fine arts student at FNUniv, spoke to a City of Regina employee about getting a bus stop along First Nations Way, which loops around FNUniv.

“He was walking around the U of R, handing out pamphlets for the new bus routes they created that year. FNUniv was even in the graphics,” Martin recalled.

“He told me that a city bus would not be able to fit on the road because it’s too narrow. And even if it could, having a bus stop there would take up valuable time for the current bus routes. These weren’t answers. They were excuses.”

While having a bus stop on First Nations Way might impede the tightly-scheduled university bus routes, charter buses drive on it to drop off those taking a tour of FNUniv during the summer months. City buses also take that route to drop off people at the First Nations Pavilion during Mosaic. Then again, there are not as many cars parked along First Nations Way during the summer as there are during the fall and winter.

“Not having a bus stop really frustrates me – especially during the winter,” said Keccia Cook, a social work student at FNUniv. Last year, Cook dropped off a written request at Transit Services. Just like Martin’s efforts, nothing transpired.

Cook, who was in her first year of studies at FNUniv then, says, “I know it may not be a big deal to some, but there are bus stops all over U of R – and not one at FNU.”

Nathan Luhning, City of Regina business development manager, says, “We can’t do any work without the authorization of the administration of the U of R.”

“Our standard for service in the city of Regina is to have bus services within 400 meters or less of 90 per cent of residential lots and schools. And the bus stop over by the Luther is a 230-meter walk from FNUniv,” said Luhning.

Nonetheless, as Luhning said, “We have heard the concern, and recognize the walk from that bus stop is quite an open area and there’s not much shelter to the elements right now.“

In the past two and a half years, Luhning says the City of Regina has received three requests to construct a bus stop at FNUniv. One was a formal request from FNUniv, and the other two were done over the phone.

One of these requests was from Brad Bellegarde, FNUniv Student Association vice president of communications. Bellegarde’s request led to a meeting between Luhning, Nelson Wagner, vice president of facilities management at the U of R and himself respectively one and a half years ago.

“We talked about how the stop by Luther isn’t getting a lot of use and perhaps should be closer to FNUniv, along First Nations Way. That way, it could also serve those staying at the new residence once it is completed. But, that’s as far as we went,” said Wagner.

After CTV News Regina aired a story on the bus stop situation at FNUniv Jan. 8, discussion resumed. Wagner spoke with Lorne Wolfe, director of plant, property and maintenance at FNUniv about the future of a bus stop for the federated college, along University Drive East.

“The west side, especially near or not too far from the cross walk and sidewalk going up to First Nations University,” as Wagner explained, is now a possible location for one.

“We’re considering it for our budget submission for the next fiscal year, which begins in May. But it’s not in there yet, nor is it approved.”

In order for a bus stop to be built there, FNUniv would have to submit a formal proposal to facilities management.

Wagner says this has never been done since becoming vice president of facilities management in 2006.

Based on urgency and safety, facilities management would then approve it and submit it to the U of R budget committee for a final approval. Their decision is based on the operating grant from the province and what is most needed around campus.

But, would the need for a bus stop be enough? In 2005, Nicole Bear began requesting the U of R and FNUniv build a sidewalk from Luther College to FNUniv. “Every winter, I kept getting stuck in the snow on my way to class at FNUniv,” said Bear, who is dependent on an electric wheelchair to get around.

“It was only when I went to the media in 2009 that anything was done. After I appeared on the news on International Day for Persons with Disabilities, the sidewalk between Luther and FNUniv was done within months.”

Perhaps now that the lack of a bus stop at FNUniv has media coverage, one will actually be built.

Image: Adam Gamble

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