By Chad Ingram
Wheels are turning on the Haliburton community transportation project.
A project of Rural Transportation Options (RTO) Haliburton County it’s funded through a transportation pilot grant from the Ministry of Transportation.
The goal of the project is to address transportation needs in local municipalities assist community agencies in meeting the demand for transportation and helping to fill transportation gaps in the community.
Tina Jackson formerly of A Place Called Home has been hired as the project navigator and a 1-800 number and website are being set up to help residents learn about transportation options and connect them with appropriate services and agencies.
A survey conducted last fall and responded to mostly by non-profit agencies found there are seven local programs that provide close to 16000 rides a year or close to 45 per day.
The results of the survey were presented to county councillors during an April 27 meeting.
Eighty-four of the 112 drivers from these programs are volunteers. Twenty-two give rides as a component of their job and there were two full-time and four part-time paid drivers.
The survey did not include for-profit operations such as the local taxi service.
A number of challenges identified in the survey included lack of volunteers matching volunteers with difficult clients and recruiting volunteers willing to transport children and families with multiple car seats. The large and remote geography of the county as well as its distance from many medical services were also identified as barriers.
Jackson has held some 20 meetings with stakeholders and the RTO’s ride-sharing website is being revamped to be more effective.
A social marketing campaign will be rolled out to encourage ride-sharing and a local transportation summit is being planned.
Minden Hills Brent Devolin said while it was great the organization had received seed money and while he was sure any services set up through the project would be well-subscribed to “is the provincial government . . . are they going to step up with some real money?” he asked.
Devolin said any transportation system in the county would require ongoing funding from the province and Algonquin Highlands Reeve and County Warden Carol Moffatt agreed that if creating a rural transportation system was easy the county would have one already.