Going Places – Do You Need Transit?

I was thinking about posting my own transit survey on this blog when I discovered that another Innisfil resident had already launched a survey of his own. You can participate in that short survey at this link:

James Watson’s Innisfil Transit Project

I applaud the initiative but it won’t keep the Town from conducting one of their own that can be statistically validated.

Personally, I’m interested in the questions being asked and the ones I would have asked. Different perspectives lead to different questions and then a different set of responses. It will be extremely interesting to better understand what Innisfil residents want.

Meanwhile, it’s good to know that other municipalities are coping with the same challenges as Innisfil. Representatives of small towns had the good fortune to hear a presentation on “Rural Transportation” at the Rural Ontario Municipalities Association (ROMA) Conference in February. It was a very instructive session on how various smaller communities identified needs and implemented solutions to transit needs. The Rural Ontario Institute has compiled a report on 10 case studies of small-scale transit solutions. It’s available online, as well as a discussion of 4 transit models and a 6 step “process guide”.

The speakers stressed the importance of understanding individual transit needs because every municipality is different. For instance, one transit service was initiated primarily to get resort employees from Wasaga Beach to their jobs in Blue Mountain.

In Norfolk County, there is one major urban centre, Simcoe, and several scattered smaller communities. Planners discovered that social agencies were spending over a million dollars a year on taxis, vans and drivers to help clients get to appointments. A Norfolk County shuttle now serves 30 stops, 5 days a week, during school hours in the urban core. There are also less frequent, more expensive, inter-urban shuttles. Social agency services are integrated to eliminate duplication. A recent survey asked riders how they were using the transit service:

Shopping 84%; medical appointments 59%; other appointments 33%; visiting 33%; employment 31%

The speakers advised from experience to start small and start local. Small-scale community transit may find a role supporting local business, improving access and mobility for seniors, enabling more youth employment, improving access to recreational opportunities and building community cohesion. The challenge is to identify priority needs and devise affordable solutions.