On December 1, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation announced they would be releasing a total of $30 million in new funding for community transportation initiatives over the next five years. This new funding expands the pilot program launched in 2015, which was created to fund the development of community transportation solutions that address local transportation needs, as well as finding ways to more efficiently use existing transportation resources.
The maximum grant that municipalities would be eligible for would be up to $500,000 for the current local transportation needs component. Also announced is a new component that could result in up to a one-time maximum of $1.5 million for creating long distance, inter-community bus services that would link communities across counties and regions.
For local community transportation projects, applicants (incorporated municipalities) must partner with at least one community organization with transportation resources. The community organization involved must be incorporated, and in operation for at least one year. In addition, at least one of the community organizations must already provide transportation services, have transportation resources, or both.
For long distance, inter-community bus service projects, applicants must show proof of support from municipalities that will be served by the service, in the form of official letters of support. Partnerships with other municipalities or community organizations aren’t necessary, but strongly encouraged.
This inter-community funding can also be used to expand or improve an existing transportation service. If certain groups of residents, such as the elderly, disabled persons, youth, or low-income residents aren’t properly serviced by an existing system, this money could be used to expand the system to properly service these groups. There’s also the potential to create transportation hubs and links to other transportation systems that would connect passengers safely and conveniently to all available services.
Back in June of this past year, the North Grenville Times created a survey on the potential of creating a transit system for Leeds and Grenville Counties. In that survey, 76% of respondents said they would like to see a transit system developed for Leeds and Grenville. 61% of respondents said they’d be comfortable with money for a transit system being in their municipal budget, but there was a wide range of responses on how much people felt that amount should be.
It’s safe to say that a transportation system for a lower-tier municipality like North Grenville is not sustainable. There’s probably not enough people who would use it to make it self-sustaining, so that, even with community partners, it would still rely heavily on municipal funding. What could be sustainable is a multiple-municipality partnership operated by a non-profit or charitable organization created by those municipalities. For example, one possibility is a Leeds and Grenville-wide transportation service that connects all municipalities within the two counties. There’s also the option of a Highway 43 corridor system that connects communities all along Highway 43, from Winchester to Smiths Falls, and would include Dundas, Grenville and Lanark Counties.
There are resources and funding available for a municipality to step forward and create a transportation system. It certainly wouldn’t be easy to pull a project like this together; but, with the right partners, they wouldn’t have to go it alone. We’ll know soon if anyone has that political will and vision, because the application deadline is February 28 at 5:00 pm.