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County readies route to pitch regional public transit

Posted May 28, 2014

Simcoe County is looking to play a greater role in public transit opportunities which now is limited to providing grants to municipal operations. A report to councillors on their June 3rd agenda, sketches a framework for next steps, which include building a "business case" to pitch the province for more funding, and a County-wide transit system.

The report, 'County of Simcoe Transit Initiatives' prepared by planner Rachelle Hamelin, is marked for information and isn't expected to advance much further until after the October 27th elections, when the incoming 32 mayors and deputy mayors of the 16 municipalities that comprise County council, take over.

There are four key directives under consideration including:
  • Continue to support existing transportation initiatives;
  • Support the recommendations of the Transportation Master Plan (TMP) update regarding the implementation of a County-wide multi-modal transportation system including active transportation and transit options;
  • Initiate an Active TMP; and
  • Initiate a Feasibility and Implementation Study regarding a County-wide transit system to identify existing public transportation capacity and opportunities.
The Towns of Collingwood, Midland, Wasaga Beach, and Bradford West Gwillmbury - which started up this month - operate public transit services. Essa Township purchases bus services from Barrie, running routes from CFB Borden-Angus, to the city. Innisfil is pursuing an option that could purchase services from Barrie as well.

New Tecumseth, which has experimented with a short-lived bus service in Alliston only several years ago, provides a taxi-cab subsidy of approximately $100,000 per year, for qualified seniors and disabled individuals. Shortly after the 2010 elections, New Tecumseth councillors aborted a public transit task force on the same night it was to select its members.

The best case scenarios include:

- Extended GO Rail service between Barrie and Union Station,
- Highway 400 bus service from Barrie to 407 Transitway, Square One and Pearson Airport,
- Extended Park and Ride lots,
- Expansion of local Barrie transit,
- Intra-regional transit connections, and
- GO transit shuttles to employment nodes.

Provincial Gas Tax Program - is a long-term source of transit funding (based on a combination of 70 per cent ridership and 30 per cent population); Infrastructure Canada Federal Gas Tax Fund; Metrolinx, are among potential funding sources identified.

"Municipal transit initiatives have gained momentum over the years and continue to pique public interest," according to Ms. Hamelin's report. "The rising popularity of transit, as an option for accessible transportation, was also confirmed throughout the recent public consultation for the County's Transportation Master Plan Update.

A well-planned transit system is an effective option in the suite of transportation modes. An integrated transit system with supportive land uses is able to enhance mobility for residents, connect employment areas and community services, and reduce the dependence on single occupant vehicle travel."

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