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Candidates buzzing about public transit

In Innisfil
Sep 21st, 2010

Simcoe.com Sep 16, 2010
INNISFIL – More than a few candidates are touting public transit on their campaign platforms this election.
But two elected officials retiring from Innisfil politics — Coun. Bill Pring and Mayor Brian Jackson — say those candidates better count the costs before they start promising a municipally-run bus service.
Both point out that two private bus companies already tried limited runs in Innisfil only to discover the initiative was much too costly.
“If you’re talking about buying a $400,000 bus and staffing it, you’re looking at a 1 to 2 per cent tax increase,” Jackson said. “It’s an admirable idea, but I just don’t know how economically feasible it would be.”
Ken Simpson, who is running against Rick Ellis and Karsten Reitz in Ward 3, criticized the outgoing council for never seriously studying the issue last term.
“Someone should have put a motion on the floor and had it debated and a report made by staff,” Simpson said. “That never happened.”
However, Pring said council did approach the City of Barrie to set up a committee that would look into the feasibility of the town using Barrie’s bus system in north Innisfil.
That initiative fell through because Barrie’s transportation department was in the midst of preparing a master plan at the time.
“We would not be able to afford he capital costs of buying a bus,” Pring said. “We’d have to partner.”
Pring added staff looked at the City of Oshawa to see how heavily subsidized their transit system is, learning taxpayers there subsidize each fare by about $1.63.
“Image what the subsidy would be here with the size of the municipality and smaller ridership,” he said.
The Innisfil Recreation Complex is the key destination trumpeted by many candidates.
“There needs to be some way to get the kids from Alcona and Lefroy to that rec centre,” Simpson said. “You can’t build a $39 million complex out there and not have a way for people without transportation to get there.”
Another hot spot looking for public transit is the retirement community of Sandy Cove Acres, which falls into Ward 6. The retirement community currently runs its own bus to Georgian Mall twice a week.
Both Ward 6 candidates, Maria Baier and Roy Bridge, are campaigning to ensure some type of a bus system for the Big Bay Point area.
Baier, a first time candidate, would like to see some limited bus service that could get seniors to the rec centre, especially in winter.
“I think the best way would be to try and share some type of service with Barrie,” she said. “It would be wonderful to get our own system, but I don’t know how realistic that would be with Innisfil being so spread out.”
Both mayoral candidates — Gord Wauchope and Barb Baguley — are taking a cautious approach to bringing bus service to Innisfil.
Wauchope sees the need for some transportation service for the northern part of town and is putting his faith in striking a deal with Barrie. Wauchope has already spoken with mayoral candidates in Barrie about the issue to get the wheels rolling if he is elected.
Baguley said she would strike a short-term community task force to study the issue and bring back recommendations to council.
“I think it’s already pretty clear traditional transit systems are not going to work here,” she said. “We clearly need a partnership with somebody, perhaps the school boards.”

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