Public transportation options for Kincardine being investigated

Section: 
News

By Barb McKay

For many in Kincardine - primarily seniors and those with limited incomes - getting around town can be a considerable challenge.

The lack of public transportation in the municipality is an issue that has been raised time and again over the years by social service agencies, seniors groups and the community at large. Now, a committee has formed to try to come up with a solution.

A transportation forum was held last Tuesday at Knox Presbyterian Church. Representatives from the church and other local churches, the County of Bruce social services and housing department, Kincardine elected officials, taxi drivers and members of the public came out for a brainstorming session.

“What we are looking for are alternatives,” said Tania Dickson of Bruce County Social Services and Housing. “We’re looking at what people want and what people need. We are really at the ground stages. There are resources in this community and maybe we aren’t tapping into them.”

The effort is being spearheaded by Kincardine Knox Presbyterian Church following a conversation between paritioner Wendy Cox and United Way executive director Francesca Dobyn. Dobyn suggested the idea of a shuttle bus service that would run three times each month around the time that Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) payments are received. At the same time, the congregation at Knox Church was reflecting on the community’s support for the effort to help bring a refugee family to Kincardine.

“After the refugee thing we became aware that we have neighbours who need help – our own community,” Cox said.

Knox Church reached out to other local churches, Community Living Kincardine and District (CLKD) and the county to work together to look at options to provide affordable transportation to those who are unable to or can’t afford to drive.

Kimberly Broomfield is a senior who shares an apartment with her friend Frieda MacDonnell. Neither drive andboth are on fixed incomes.

“It would be nice to go to things but we just can’t afford it all the time,” she said. “We really need help with transportation, even to go to the grocery store or to the Davidson Centre or to church.”

Broomfield said it would be nice if people in similar circumstances came together to go places as a group. She said it would be less costly to use a bus or shuttle service if there were several people using it.

Kincardine Mayor Anne Eadie said the municipality, and several neighbouring municipalities like Huron-Kinloss, help fund Saugeen Mobility and Regional Transit, which provides transportation to individuals with physical or developmental disabilities. Still, there is a cost to users, which is a flat fee of $2 plus 50 cents per kilometre. There is a waiting fee of $18 per hour after the first hour and rides outside of the local service area (for example, to London for a medical appointment are $18 per hour plus 50 cents per kilometre.

Though the transit service has been a lifesaver for some people, many others are not eligible to use it. Taxi fares are too costly for many seniors on fixed incomes. Fred Woodington, owner of Fred’s Cabs, attended the forum and said he has tried to keep his rates down knowing the challenges that seniors face, but with the high price of gas and an annual insurance rate of $5,000 per vehicle, it is a struggle. He recently increased the flat rate from Kincardine to Ripley from $40 to $45 because of the rising gas prices but has left local rates unchanged.

“We’ve been offered to have the meters raised in Kincardine, but we said no,” he said.

Woodington and other taxi drivers worry that a new bus or shuttle service in Kincardine could hurt their business but are willing to work with the committee on options. Some in attendance asked about the possibility of the taxi companies offering ride sharing. Woodington said bylaws restrict him from picking up passengers at multiple stops. He said the former municipal council was unwilling to work with the taxi companies on a ride sharing option. A suggestion was made to have pre-determined stops for groups of riders who could ‘sign up’ for the ride in advance. Woodington said he would have to read the municipal bylaw to see if that would be an option.

Rev. Kathy Fraser of Kincardine Knox Presbyterian Church told the group that all options for affordable transportation will be looked at.

“At this point I think nothing is a ‘no’,” she said.

The committee is encouraging anyone who is interested in being involved in the process and further discussions to contact the Knox Church office at 519-396-2311 or email knoxkincardine@gmail.com.