Thanks to some innovating thinking at the District Municipality of Muskoka, residents living in rural communities will be able to access transportation to service centres on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
The program will use existing school buses that transport students to and from schools to provide rural residents access to places such as hospitals and urban centres as well as community programs and services.
“So the school bus is going to drop off the student, then the bus is going to start the MET (Muskoka Extended Transit) route,” explained Program Information Manager for the District of Muskoka Community Services Department, Kim Rinaldo.
She said people will have approximately three and a half hours to do the things they need to do before the buses begin their return route in time to pick students up from schools.
“There are so many people in the community on board already. We had a nurse practitioner say ‘let us know what day of the week that you have these people riding the bus and we’ll make sure we block off a window of appointments for them.’” District community services Program Information Manager Kim Rinaldo
Transportation has been identified as one of the biggest barriers for those living in rural areas to access services.
The District applied for a grant under the Ministry of Transportation’s Community Transportation Program and was successful. It will receive $100,000 towards the pilot rural transit program until March 2017.
“Our hope is that by March 2017, the system will become self-sustainable,” said Rinaldo. The price for passengers will be $3 one way or $5 for a return trip. Passengers will receive a return ticket so the bus driver knows they’ve paid.
There are seven routes being proposed, which are currently being reviewed by Hammond Transportation Services for safety and compliance purposes.
A rural transportation committee has been formed for this project and it continues to seek input from the community on ways of enhancing the safety and viability of the project, explained Rinaldo.
“We want to work together and make this very important project successful” she said.
She said route usage will be measured and may be changed or enhanced during the pilot period of the project. When the program launches there will be a 1-800 number for users to call to get more information on routes, times and cancellations. Users should beware of school bus cancellations due to bad weather conditions as it will also impact Muskoka Extended Transit. Staff is working diligently to try and get the program, or at least part of it, on the road sometime in November.
The proposed routes are as follows:
- Dwight/Dorset to Huntsville (click here to view map)
- Baysville to Huntsville
- Uffington to Bracebridge
- MacTier to Bracebridge
- Severn Bridge to Gravenhurst
- Glen Orchard to Bracebridge
- Honey Harbour to Port Severn to Midland
The District will issue media releases and other forms of communications when the program officially launches, said Rinaldo. Click here to view a PDF of a resent presentation to District of Muskoka Council.