Council seeking information on feasibility of fare-free transit pilot

April 7, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Orangeville Council is trying to determine the feasibility of a fare-free transit system.

A motion brought forward by Coun. Grant Peters asking Town staff to provide a report outlining a two-year pilot program for fare-free transit was unanimously approved during a March 21 Council meeting.

The report is expected back no later than June of this year and notes the pilot program would be in alignment with the implementation of a fourth route and transit hub construction, which is scheduled for completion by fall of this year at the Edelbrock Centre.

The report will also look at the potential impacts on ridership, route efficiency, gas tax calculations, and reduced capital expenditures such as electronic fare collection for the pilot program period of two years.

Orangeville offered fare-free transit successfully from April 2020 to March 2021 as a COVID-19 relief measure.

It is estimated to cost roughly $180,000 per year to offer free transit rides in Orangeville.

Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh, who initially voiced his opposition to the piloting a free transit system, said he now supports looking into the program.

“I’d love to see free transit,” he said. “I believe we talked about it last meeting, it was about a $180,000 loss for the Town of Orangeville taxpayers [per year]. However, if it can be made up through the gas tax, which I hear that it goes by ridership, I would certainly be in favour of this.”

Orangeville received $289,430 in gas tax funding this year, while Caledon received $385,473. The amount allocated to each municipality is designated for transit services.

Coun. Todd Taylor, who also voiced opposition to fare-free transit when the idea was originally introduced by Coun. Peters during a meeting on March 7, noted his concerns.

“I certainly vote in favor of the research. We should always do that and follow through. But as I sit here now, I don’t see why we would give… $166,000 of taxpayer dollars [for this]. I don’t know why we would do that,” Coun. Taylor remarked.

He noted that when the staff report comes back, with more information he may change his mind, but as of now he is against the pilot program.

Meanwhile, Mayor Sandy Brown noted that while it does seem like a lot of money, transportation is a key service to many people in Orangeville.

“Public transit is something that’s important to a lot of people that need it. Those who do not have a car, seniors, students seem to use it a lot, so I think it’s very interesting to get a report back from staff,” said Mayor Brown.

A report from Town staff on the feasibility of a fare-free transit pilot project for two years will come back to Council no later than June.

Council’s next meeting is scheduled for April 11.

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