Wanted: public transit solutions

October 19, 2016   ·   0 Comments

SENIOR LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT have always purported to be supportive of the forms of public transit they regulate, be it airlines, passenger trains, inter-city buses or local transit services.

However, the reality is that in the last half-century governments at all levels have fallen far short in terms of accommodating the needs of those families and individuals who either have no personal means of transport or have only one vehicle that must be used to commute to work.

Fifty years ago, most residents of Dufferin County had reasonably easy access to an inter-city bus or a train of some sort (a mixed freight/passenger train between Orangeville and Grand Valley and high-speed ‘Dayliners’ on the CPR line between Toronto and Owen Sound).

At that point in history, good inter-city bus service was provided by Gray Coach Lines, a subsidiary of the Toronto Transit Commission that was later sold to Greyhound, which has since ended service in Dufferin, ostensibly because of unfair competition from GO Transit.

Today, public transit in Dufferin is essentially  limited to Orangeville, in the form of the local Orangeville Transit service and GO Transit’s bus service down Highway 10, which operates only Mondays through Fridays.

At a time when the Ontario government is seemingly committed to spending billions of dollars on transit improvements in the Greater Toronto Area, it seems there is no awareness of any need for even limited inter-city and local bus services in a place like Shelburne, where literally thousands of former Torontonians are purchasing homes because even modest homes in Toronto now cost far more than they can afford.

The result for untold numbers of these new residents of Dufferin is that the families are essentially trapped in their own homes for lack of public transit.

In the circumstances, it will be interesting to see whether any level of government will move to provide some form of public transit, as well as to improve the services that do exist in Orangeville.

In Orangeville, Council’s Transit Committee has recommended some improvements in the existing service, including extending operating hours in the evening and purchasing two new 30-foot, low-floor buses to replace existing vehicles, as well as building a transfer station at Westdale Mall.

However, we think the time has come for the committee to approach Mono Council and the benefiting land owners with a proposal to extend bus service north on Highway 10 to Mono Plaza and east on Highway 9 to the Athletic Institute – service that would benefit all the Orangeville-area car dealerships. The modest cost of such a service extension could be borne by Mono and the many benefiting property owners.

As we see it, Shelburne should also have at least a token bus service capable of getting its residents to the town’s present and planned shopping areas.

Additionally, important roles should be played by Dufferin County and GO Transit.

The County should start by following the lead of Caledon and many other towns by having at least two wheelchair-accessible buses that would respond to calls for service outside the towns of Orangeville and Shelburne.

As for GO Transit, we think it should start by providing bus service to all or most of the rush-hour GO trains in Brampton and at least to every other train in the non-rush periods.

Beyond that, there should be at least one GO bus morning and evening from Shelburne and Grand Valley that would eventually feed a train timed for the rush-hour peaks.

Initially, the GO train service could use the existing Credit Valley Explorer coaches, but in the longer term GO should purchase modern versions of the Budd cars, self-propelled coaches that would use natural gas and be easily converted to use electricity when it’s available.

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