Transportation proposals headed for county council
By Jenn Watt
Published Nov. 14, 2017
Haliburton County council will soon be presented with potential models for public transportation complete with costs and recommendations from the rural transportation task force.
“The task force also worked extremely hard at whittling down the possible service models for a public transportation service for our region, using feedback and outputs from the Transportation Summit that was held last fall and investigating different models that other communities were using,” said Tina Jackson, transportation project co-ordinator, during a recent Chamber of Commerce breakfast.
For the last seven years, the topic of providing some form of public transportation in Haliburton County has been under review in one way or another starting with an Environment Haliburton forum in 2010, which examined the alternatives to personal car ownership. Since that time, groups have come together to find ways to overcome the dispersed population and vast geography of the county.
With two grants from the Ministry of Transportation, concerned parties have been able to compile information on options, create the Haliburton Rideshare website, hold last fall’s summit and create a work plan, among other things.
During the breakfast talk, Jackson did not go into the recommended models, but did highlight some of the challenges and the need.
“Getting 20 people from point A to point B would be simple, but in reality, services, businesses and employment opportunities are scattered across the county with potential riders similarly scattered,” she said. “And of course, we have the issue of how would it be funded. Our municipal tax revenues are already stretched and federal gas tax dollars are needed for maintenance of existing roads infrastructure.”
Federal gas taxes flow from the federal government through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to be used on roads and community infrastructure projects. The provincial gas tax does have a fund for public transportation, but it can only be accessed for permanent, ongoing transportation systems and must not exceed 75 per cent of what the municipality is paying into it. Pilot projects do not qualify, county council was told recently. However, Jackson reminded the audience that there are many in the county who cannot drive (or shouldn’t drive), but still need to get around.
“There are many people in the county, up to 30 per cent, that for legal, financial or physical reasons shouldn’t drive or can’t drive,” she said. “They still need groceries, haircuts, social opportunities, access to health care and banking and employment and training opportunities.”
The task force is reaching out to the community with monthly infographics, a three-part panel discussion on Canoe FM and has a U-Links research project analyzing data from surveys. Those surveys ask businesses about how many employees and customers have been affected by lack of transportation.
Recent enhancements to the Haliburton Rideshare website include the ability to sign up for texts or email alerts when ride opportunities come up as well as a separate section for ridesharing to particular events. You can find out more by going to haliburtonrideshare.ca.