The Southwestern Ontario Transportation Alliance warmly welcomes the Ontario government’s release of $30 million in Community Transportation Grant funding on Friday, January 25th 2019.
The investment represents the first tangible step toward restoring inter-community bus services in Southwestern Ontario since the demise of AboutTown Transportation’s services decimated the route network in 2013.
This funding, which follows on from $3 million in pilot project funding provided to 22 communities by the previous government, will provide restored and new services that will make a significant difference to the lives of citizens in many smaller communities that have been without any public bus services for six years or longer.
Announcing the grants, Jeff Yurek, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, said: “We are working with municipalities to support programs that will help Ontarians stay connected to their communities, so they can access employment and social programs, attend appointments, visit friends and family, and maintain an independent and active lifestyle.”
We look forward to seeing the results of the funded projects, particularly long-distance connections like Owen Sound to Guelph and Sarnia to London that can also serve as connections to the rest of the Canadian rail and bus network.
Launching the new services may take six months to a year, with many municipalities putting contacts out to tender, and it can take a long time for ridership to return after years of neglect, but at least fewer people will now be forced to move away from their communities by lack of transportation, which has been an issue for youth and seniors alike. We hope that five-year funding through this grant program will enable the new services to build towards sustainability.
We would like to thank the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, City of Stratford, City of Sarnia, Town of St. Marys and County of Oxford in particular for their ongoing support for transportation advocacy across the region that has helped to bring this investment about.
We hope these grants will be the first of many initiatives on inter-community connectivity to flow from the Intercity Bus Modernization consultations held in 2017 (EBR Registry #012-7896). There are several issues raised in those consultations still to be resolved, particularly the need for regional co-ordination and planning to ensure service integration and optimal use of public funds.