Put on the brakes
The decision making process behind starting a bus route to Creemore should be put in reverse.
There are so many questions yet unanswered. How do we know if a bus is needed in Creemore? And if there is a need how is it best to address it.
To approve a transit plan without first identifying the need is irresponsible.
A one-year trial for a public transit system in Creemore and linking to Stayner has been approved at an approximate cost of $92,647.36 (based on four days per week of service).
The plan has been approved by council before any formal consultation with the public about how they might use the service.
The first questions that should be asked when deciding on a service are where do people want to go and when?
It may very well be that there are a number of people who are in need of transportation to the hospital, the bank, or the medical lab but at this point we have no official data on who they are or where they live.
When implementing a service, especially one that will never be profitable and will indeed cost taxpayers quite a bit of money for the foreseeable future, the very fist step should be public consultation.
In January, council directed staff to investigate using a gas tax windfall to establish a Creemore bus route.
That money is not being considered for this trial period and instead of going back and assessing the real need. Council choses to speed ahead.
This process needs to be flipped. The municipality should have taken some time since January to ask people about their transportation needs.
A dozen people telling a member of council they want a bus to get them to the Superstore in Wasaga Beach, does not count as proper consultation.
In a community as small as Creemore it is relatively easy to spread the word. A public open house should be held, inviting people to see some options, and allow for other avenues of communication for those who cannot get to the event. If people don’t engage, so be it, but at least an effort was made. A lack of interest could be measured as a lack of need, or vice versa, a huge crowd could show both current and future interest. Because, transportation is a long term project and planning for the future should be a part of the process.
Installing a bus takes time. It’s true what staff has said about offering consistent service so riders will trust the reliability of the system long term. People reading this with interest may not need a bus now but maybe they will in five years. A careful measure of demographics and population trends should be considered when installing a service as binding and expensive as transit.
Public consultation should always be done at the beginning of planning a project, not done at the end after all the work has been done, minds have been made-up and heels have been dug-in.