By Chad Ingram
Published Dec. 21, 2017
It’s something some members of Haliburton County council don’t seem to want to deal with, and certainly it will be a sizeable challenge, but the county needs some form of public transportation system.
County council recently received a proposal with options from a community transportation task force. Some of the suggested models include the use of school buses during the day when they are not being used to transport students, and passenger vehicles that would run flexible routes, picking up passengers who’ve booked a ride from set pickup locations. A hybrid model would dovetail these modes of transportation, having passengers transfer between them.
Councillors expressed skepticism and even doubt that a transportation system in the community could be effective. There were concerns about logistics, public safety and liability. There were concerns about cost. There was the reiteration of the fact that the county is geographically large, with a sparse population spread throughout its expanse.
There was the reiteration that transportation pilot projects have been tried in the past and have failed, and that transportation projects in neighbouring rural communities are struggling.
Just because something didn’t work in the past is no reason not to try it again.
Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin has said there is a public appetite for public transportation and that council has to do something. He’s right on both counts.
There are repeated calls for transit in the community and have been for the past decade, yet county council does nothing about it. Nothing substantial, anyway. There seems to be a mutual understanding that it won’t work, and councillors move along.
That’s not good enough anymore.
The community is changing. Look to the continued construction of condominium buildings as evidence of this. People are retiring here, and there will be many more on the way in ensuing decades. How long before many of those people stop driving?
What about Fleming College students? With no residence building on the Haliburton campus, many must walk or get rides to and from classes.
A transit system could help those who don’t drive and are unemployed to become employed. It could also help those who don’t drive and want to support local businesses get to and from those local businesses, rather than making purchases on Amazon, which so conveniently delivers to one’s door.
There is funding from upper levels of government available to help with the cost of municipal transportation projects, but a transit system will certainly cost the county money, likely to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. While this may be a bitter pill, it’s something councillors are going to have get their heads around.
Local politicians may pride themselves on the area’s low taxes, but we have a lack of services to accompany those low taxes. No garbage pickup, for instance. No transit.
2018 is a municipal election year and locally, transit will constitute one of the defining conversations. And councillors who refuse to get on board with some kind of transit plan may very well find themselves under the bus.