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Town’s transit system gets boost from Queen’s Park

August 23, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Orangeville’s transit system is set to receive a much-needed shot in the arm from both the federal and provincial governments. 

Last Friday (Aug. 16), Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones met with Orangeville Mayor Sandy Brown and John Lackey, the Town’s Manager of Operations and Development, to confirm a $697,000 investment in the municipality’s bus fleet and planned transit transfer station, slated for placement along Centre Street. The funding is a part of a “one third, one third, one third” initiative, as Ms. Jones coined it, with equal investments also made by both the federal and municipal governments.

“When the Town decided to make a focus and commitment on improving their transit system, they applied to this infrastructure program. I love the one third, one third, one third programs because it means all levels of government are participating, and agree with the project that has been chosen,” she stated. “The federal government still has to sign off on the project. The Province has now submitted this for approval, but we are very hopeful that, with the Town’s commitment and the provincial government stepping up, that the feds will come on board.”

She added, “The entire project is valued at $2.1 million. This is an investment of two buses, a glass shelter, benches and lay-by bus lane.”

While Orangeville’s transit system began operations all the way back on Dec. 2, 1991, it has undergone something of a transformation in recent years. The service currently has three routes, with buses operating six days a week, from 7:15 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. from Monday to Friday and from 7:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. on Saturday. There is currently no service on Sundays and holidays. 

Orangeville Council made an ambitious commitment to revamp the transit service beginning in 2014 – stating an intent to purchase three new buses to service the three routes in town, while also making plans to, eventually, implement a fourth route. 

“That fourth transit route would likely be in the northwest portion of town,” Mayor Sandy Brown informed the Citizen. “From what I understand, making the Hansen (Boulevard) road connection is going to be critical to adding that fourth route.”

Movement on finally connecting the two ends of Hansen is currently at an impasse, the mayor confirmed. The land in question is currently owned by the property developer responsible for much of the new subdivision off Veteran’s Way. According to a detailed post to social media by Coun. Todd Taylor earlier this year, there is still much work to be done before the two ends of the road can be connected. 

“There are two distinct projects required to connect Hansen Boulevard from end to end – the Hansen road project and the bridge over Lower Monora Creek at the end of Hansen,” Coun. Taylor wrote. “The property is located on land owned by the developer. The road is to be designed and constructed by the developer as part of the next phase of development. The location of the road, in both plan and profile have been set, however underground buried services has not been fully determined. The last phase of this development is still early in the process, and design work has been competed for the subdivision.”

Regarding the touted bridge, Coun. Taylor said design work was approved by the Town as part of its 2018 capital budget and that the project would likely be included in the municipality’s 2020 capital budget provided all issues with the road are solved. Before work could move forward, Coun. Taylor noted the Town must first finalize negotiations with the developer to secure access to the land in question, hire a consultant to design the road and underground buried services, hire a contractor to complete the work and also bring someone on board to design the sanitary sewers, storm sewers and water mains.

On top of that, the Town still has work to do before it confirms where its new transit transfer station will be located. Last year, it was recommended that a site along Centre Street, in front of the County-owned Edelbrock Centre, would be an optimal location, due to its location at the heart of the municipality’s three routes and relative close proximity to the downtown core. 

While the site received the necessary approvals from Dufferin County Council, some local residents took exception to the fact this new bus terminal is near Orangeville’s community garden, located on land directly beside the Edelbrock Centre. Concerns centred around the fact that buses idling at the proposed transfer point would spew fumes that would contaminate fruits and vegetables grown at the garden. 

Mayor Brown indicated talks are ongoing and that Orangeville’s newly formed Transit Task Force would take a leadership role in deciding where the new bus terminal will be located.

A key component of this project, the mayor says, is the plan to purchase two new buses. Even when the municipality eventually switches to a four-route system, that will leave one bus left as a “spare”, to be used when any of the other buses are out of commission for repairs or general maintenance. 

“That will ensure we have an effective transit system that is running at all times,” Mayor Brown said.

The next step will be working on improving ridership. While Orangeville buses may not be full on a daily basis, MPP Jones believes it’s important to provide what she considers to be a vital service to local residents.

“Sometimes we mistakenly believe in Dufferin-Caledon that everyone has access to a vehicle, and that is simply not the case,” Ms. Jones said. “We have a lot of families that have a single car, which is usually be used to travel elsewhere for work. I love the fact that we are offering programs that ensure people can continue to be engaged with the community.”

That was a sentiment Mayor Brown shared, expressing his belief that the Town’s transit system is a key utility for some of the community’s most vulnerable residents.

“We know seniors use it, students use it, we have some handicapped individuals using it. We want to make sure those people can move around our town properly, effectively and comfortably,” Mayor Brown said. “We’re really grateful to the Province for helping out with this project.”



         

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