By Chad Ingram
Published Feb. 14 2019
The current mandate of the county's transportation task force will be up as of the end of March.
Formed in 2017 the task force which is not a committee of council but a citizen-driven group was created to address transportation needs in the county and has worked on a series of projects including a 2018 business model that was presented to county council. That model included a number of potential transportation system types.
Last year the county hired a consulting firm to create an implementation plan for a booked shared-ride service – a demand-based system where users call ahead to book rides – and county councillors will be discussing whether to implement such a system during their 2019 budget deliberations which began last week.
“We recognize that implementing this model across the county will require compromise and communication” Tina Jackson co-ordinator with Rural Transportation Options told Algonquin Highlands councillors during a Feb. 7 meeting adding that meeting the needs of the most people possible needed to be balanced with operational affordability. “This means that door-to-door service for every resident would not be possible to start. To be clear there are few public transportation services that do offer door-to-door service to every resident.”
The RTO is part of the Haliburton County Community Co-operative and has been working on transportation projects since 2010.
Jackson said there is no one transportation system that can fulfill all the needs of all users.
“So we are looking at this model as part of a larger transportation system” she said. “I cannot stress enough that this model is designed to work in tandem with existing services . . . At first we need to start with something that we know is manageable and plan for expansion in increments.”
“Lastly we do have local expertise in this specific model in Haliburton County” Jackson said. “They are at the table and they are ready to make this happen. They have offered their support in developing this model as a successful made-in-Haliburton service.”
“This isn't just our opinion in terms of how to be successful” said Lisa Tolentino a member of the RTO and the task force. A number of task force members Tolentino included have post-secondary education in areas of transportation and public policy.
The funding for the task force and the RTO co-ordinator position is coming to an end in March.
“I'd like to conclude by saying that the members of RTO the transportation co-ordinator Tina and the task force itself has worked tirelessly . . . to craft solutions using various networks to find funding and keep momentum on this issue going” Tolentino told councillors. “However folks are only able to continue for so long without seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We are hoping that your council in support of county council can be that light at the end of the tunnel.”
“You can hear the passion in both your voices” said Mayor Carol Moffatt thanking Jackson and Tolentino for their presentation. County councillors made a delegation to provincial politicians at the recent Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference regarding the proposed transportation system.
“They were receptive” Moffatt said. “We just asked for consideration of the funding model.”
It's estimated the cost of running the booked shared ride service proposed in the consultant's report would cost about $300000 a year with the anticipation that some of that cost would be covered by provincial funding programs.
County councillors have submitted questions regarding the proposed model to the county's planner and whether to proceed with the model will be discussed during budget conversations.
“We really need to do a fulsome discussion [at the county council table]” said Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen who is Haliburton County warden for 2019. “It's one of the items that is top of mind.”