Transit expanding in Blue Mountains area

Roger Klein, CTV Barrie
Published Tuesday, October 22, 2013 7:19PM EDT

Public transit is always available in big cities, but in smaller communities without bus service getting to work or school can be very difficult or very costly.   

Now – after years of debate – Collingwood is expanding its transit system to include the Town of Blue Mountains.

Every hour on the hour, the bus leaves Collingwood for Wasaga Beach. The transit link between the two communities started two years ago as a trial. Now Robert Leggatt, along with many of his neighbours, depends on it.


Robert Leggatt

Robert Leggatt is happy to hear transit is expanding in the Collingwood and Blue Mountains areas.

“There are a lot of people who live along Highway 26 who don’t have cars and they rely on the bus, the link service to bring them into Collingwood,” he says.

Collingwood’s transit service is about to expand again with another bus that will run out to the resort area in the Blue Mountains.

Mayor Sandra Cooper says Collingwood and the Town of Blue Mountains have each contributed $18,000. The resort is also kicking in to get the new service up-and-running on a trial basis.

“The Blue Mountain Village Association and the resort have come up with $40,000 and with those partnerships it’s an exciting new venture,” she says.

The new service will use one of Collingwood’s existing buses and will travel back and forth between Collingwood and Blue Mountain for three hours in the morning and four hours in the evening. It’s anticipated that people will want to take along their ski and snowboard equipment.

High school students say a bus to the mountain is needed.

“I ski and my sister has a part time job up there too,” says Rachel Neike.

Mackenzie Kilbride says it’ll help with student employment “because a lot of parents don’t want to drive all the way out there.”

Anneliese Spear says the bus could mean new employment opportunities too because she will be able to travel all the way from Wasaga Beach to Blue Mountain using public transit.

“I think it will work,” she says. “I think it will work for everybody, even that extra opportunity to look is great.”

The new service should be up and running by early November, but is only a six-month trial to see how popular the service really is.

Read more:

City to move to three-route bus system

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Monday, August 26, 2013 11:30:52 EDT PM

City council narrowly approved Monday night reducing the number of 30-minute routes serviced by its public transit system from four to three, despite fierce opposition from some councillors.

“I really think we’re making a mistake, a tragic mistake,” Coun. Peter Lemon said during the meeting.

He urged his council colleagues to maintain a four-route system and to call another public meeting to hear from transit users.

Councillors who supported moving to a three-route system disagreed with Lemon’s position that there is a “humungous” difference between the two models.

“I believe sincerely that a three-route system without a terminal will provide virtually the same service on virtually the same timetable” as a four-route system, Coun. Bill Twaddle said during the meeting.

The buses would cover virtually the same ground and continue to meet the needs of transit users, he said, while giving the city more gas tax revenue to spend on transit-related capital expenses.

It would also save the city an estimated $130,000 to $150,000 a year or $1.1 million over the life of the eight-year contract.

“If we have a chance to save taxpayers $150,000 a year, I think we should take it,” said Coun. Jim McManaman.

But Lemon said those estimated cost savings, which were provided to council by city staff, do not take into account the loss of revenue from losing riders.

Mayor Deb Haswell said she is confident “an improved three-route system” can be developed that will result in little impact to riders and ridership numbers.

City staff will work with the new transit operator to develop possible models for a three-route system. Users will be consulted, she said, before the three routes are finalized, she said.

Haswell said the city is facing serious financial pressures “and we have to simply watch where every dollar is being spent.”

Council voted 5-4 to move to a three-route system. Councillors Lemon, Colleen Purdon, Jan Chamberlain and Arlene Wright voted against the motion, which also approved hiring First Student Owen Sound to provide the service and its own buses for the next eight years.

The net annual cost of the First Student bid, when factoring in revenue from provincial gas tax and bus fares, is expected to be about $648,000 with the three-route system, according to a staff report to council.

The current system’s net cost for 2013 is $1.2 million.

A big chunk of the price increase from 2012 to 2013 is being blamed on the cost to repair and maintain the city’s fleet of buses buses.

Council has already approved closing the downtown bus terminal, hiking bus fares by 10% in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and ending Saturday service 90 minutes earlier.

Miller Transit, the current operator of Owen Sound’s transit system, also bid on the new eight-year contract, but the company’s proposal scored lower than the one presented by First Student and Miller’s cost was higher.

The city’s contract with Miller expires at the end of September.

The changes approved by council are to come into effect six months into the new contract, in April 2014.

Purdon also spoke out strongly against moving to a three-route system. She said the “future lies in using transit,” not reducing the service.

“People want more transit,” she said. “A four-route system is a better system.”