Businesses asked to weigh in on lack of transportation
By Chad Ingram
Published August 29, 2017
The Haliburton County transportation task force will survey member businesses of the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce about how transportation, or lack thereof, affects the availability of workers.
The task force, which includes a variety of community stakeholders, was developed as part of an ongoing community transportation project following a local transportation summit that took place last November.
“The task force functions as sort of an information consortium,” its co-chair Sue Shikaze told Haliburton County councillors during an Aug. 23 council meeting.
The task force is drawing on feedback from health and social services, employment and training organizations, local municipalities, residents, transportation providers and the business community.
It began monthly meetings in April.
As part of its work plan, in September and October, the task force will survey chamber of commerce members.
“So asking them things like, ‘Does access to transportation ever limit people’s ability to get to work? Have people ever had to leave jobs because they couldn’t get to work?’” said Shikaze. “Those kinds of things.”
The task force is looking at projects including the creation of lift stops within the community.
“Lift stops are essentially formalized ride share locations,” Shikaze said. “They’ve been implemented successfully in a couple of different places in B.C.”
The Haliburton Rideshare program, operated by Rural Transportation Options (RTO), the organization also responsible for the community transportation project, allows residents to co-ordinate carpooling rides.
“We’re also looking at exploring partnerships with the school bus companies,” Shikaze continued. “We know that in Muskoka, for example, they partner with the school buses to offer a fixed route service, so we’re exploring that.”
Among other goals are a communications plan, a submission to the Local Poverty Reduction Fund, which has been sent, and continued research into sustainable transportation options for the county.
“While the community transportation task force is not a committee of county council, the county does oversee the community transportation pilot project, and the task force is part of that initiative,” said project manager Tina Jackson.
The task force provides updates and feedback to the county through its planning department.
Haliburton County has applied for the Ministry of Transportation grants through which the project operates and, as a condition of those grants, also acts as banker for the project.
Current funding will last until March of 2018.
Minden Hills Reeve and County Warden Brent Devolin said the county and its lower-tier municipalities need a more formalized role in the project.
“As municipal politicians, both at the county and the lower tiers, I’m thinking ... in the end, we need to be involved and the recommendation here that it’s not a formal committee of county council, or whatever, there needs to be some kind of formalized linkage to us at the county or municipalities,”
Devolin said. “The reality is that, with the exception of [highways] 35 and 118, the two levels of government, we own or control all the roads in the county.”
“In the end, funding and opportunities and oversight, I perceive ... we need to be formally involved in the game,” Devolin said. “This has been studied for a long time ... it’s time for the rubber to meet the road.”
Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey also said he wanted to see more tangible results when it comes to transportation, noting that the pilot project started a year and a half ago.
“So, in 18 months, is there one, specific thing that has happened to help transportation, or are we just meeting?” Fearrey asked. “I’m not trying to be critical, here, but yes, I am. We want to see something that’s concrete, something tangible.”
Jackson noted the first phase of the project was a transportation information service that is up and running.
“The first phase of the project was to actually provide a transportation service, in terms of an information referral service,” she said. “So, that was launched. That is a service and that has been launched.”
The website provides people with information about what services are available within the community, how to access them and who is eligible.
“The next phase, sort of focusing on what’s next, only really started less than a year ago,” Jackson said. “We didn’t want to just . . . willy-nilly come up with a plan, we wanted to study what else other communities within Ontario doing, and how that’s working.”
“I’m not saying it’s a simple solution,” said Fearrey. “This has been talked about for 25 years.”
The county has attempted various transportation projects in the past, included failed bus pilots.