By Jenn Watt
Dec. 6 2016
About a month ago I was at a gathering in Bancroft where I met an older woman who used to live in Wilberforce. While she enjoyed living in the village she said she’d moved to Bancroft because she didn’t want to drive anymore and found the transportation system there fit with her lifestyle.
Additionally she had discovered a shuttle that would take her to Belleville for heavily subsidized dentist appointments.
Ease of movement was her No. 1 reason for leaving the Highlands. And she’s not alone.
The Haliburton Highlands is past due for an affordable accessible universal transportation system.
It’s too early to expect a system that covers the whole county or takes care of everyone’s needs but we have to get started on something.
Several weeks ago a transportation summit was held in Haliburton that outlined some of the rural models out there including Bancroft Muskoka and Deseronto. Organizers were honest about the cost; transportation is funded by the taxpayer. You’re unlikely to have a system that is funded by users exclusively they said.
But that’s OK.
We have all agreed in creating government and paying taxes that we want to have common things to benefit the greater community. We have schools and roads libraries and emergency services. But we don’t have a bus from Minden to Haliburton.
And it’s time we do.
Tina Jackson local transportation advocate says a needs assessment should be completed before anything is planned. A made-in-Haliburton solution would likely be a combination of a fixed route (much like TROUT in Bancroft) and a feeder system that picks people up from the outskirts.
The need Jackson says is tremendous. “From workforce development to economic development to training and education to tourism to poverty reduction to health care to broader health and wellness to social inclusion … it has an impact on all of it” she wrote in an email to the Echo .
Without reliable transportation people struggle to attend doctors’ appointments kids aren’t able to do extracurriculars that require rides in an out of town those without licences can’t easily come to town to pick up groceries and unemployed residents can’t get jobs in the next town.
And that’s just those with the most pressing needs. A regular bus route would allow teenagers to visit friends in the next town on a Saturday or those looking to reduce their carbon emissions to choose a greener option. Obviously we couldn’t expect a bus buzzing back and forth on the hour between towns but even a few routes a day would connect us literally and as a community.
If you agree that we need to have transportation available for everyone there’s a place for you on the Rural Transportation Options committee or the transportation task force. Let your politicians know how you feel. If we make transportation a priority action will follow.