Transit and Transition

Innisfil is not very ‘walkable’. That’s not surprising for a municipality formed out of the amalgamation of several small rural settlements scattered over an historically agricultural area. Cookstown was an early urban hub for surrounding farms, and Belle Ewart was the terminus of a railway line that carried pure blocks of Lake Simcoe ice as far as Florida before the advent of mechanical refrigeration. Alcona and Lefroy were summer playgrounds for post-war cottagers. Now Alcona is Innisfil’s designated “urban core”, accounting for about half of the Town’s population.

There is an interesting web site, Walkscore.com, that will calculate a walking score (0 to 100) for many urban areas, as well as specific addresses. The scale is divided this way:

  • Walker’s paradise 90-100
  • Very walkable 70-89
  • Somewhat walkable 50-69
  • Car dependent 25-49
  • Very car dependent 0-24

It is based on a number of factors including distance to different types of amenities like parks, schools and shopping; population density; and “road metrics” like block length and intersection density. (Related transit and cycling scores are available as well). While I would take these numbers with a grain of salt, it does provide some interesting comparisons to current surrounding municipalities: 

  • 82 Orillia – Very Walkable
  • 74 Newmarket – Very Walkable
  • 64 Bradford – Somewhat Walkable
  • 40 Barrie – Car Dependent
  • 18 Innisfil – Very Car Dependent

We can improve these results locally by focusing on a specific area. Cookstown (57) and Alcona (59) rate a little better as “somewhat walkable”. Note that these Innisfil settlements are already considered to be more walkable than sprawled-out Barrie, overall.

The Town’s Retail Demand Study (2011) demonstrated that shopping opportunities here are limited and, as a result, the majority of consumer spending takes place outside of Innisfil. That means a lot of car trips to surrounding municipalities. The question of providing a transit service is a recurring one. While a segment of the population wants transit, there is a legitimate fear that an adequate service would be unaffordable.

The Town is taking another stab at this issue with a new study being conducted by the MM Group and assisted by Environics Research. Half of the cost is funded from the County of Simcoe. Information will be collected from residents primarily through a telephone survey to determine how many people want transit, where they want to go, and how often. The consultants will analyze the data to consider all transportation possibilities including a dial-up ride, and other options besides conventional transit.

The Transition Movement builds resilience by improving local economic activity, and employment as well as reducing dependence on carbon-based transportation by making it possible to walk, bike and use transit more often. I see opportunities to improve in all these areas and look forward to learning what the consultants discover.

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