The recent round of provincial gas tax rebates was announced, with increases given to municipalities which have transit systems. Communities like Brockville and Cornwall saw some of those increases: South Dundas and the other municipalities in SDG did not because they do not have transit services.
Transit has been a priority of the provincial government for the past decade, regardless of the party in charge. Successive budgets have put more money into transit, and not just in big cities like Toronto and Ottawa. Smaller municipalities see that investment too. Is it finally time for the United Counties to look at implementing some form of bus transit system? Yes it is.
Unless you actually live in a larger village, getting anywhere in this area requires a vehicle. For those at or below the poverty line, this is an unaffordable challenge. For those who cannot drive, or are disabled, it is a recipe for financial hardship, or a reason to move to the city. Investing in rural transit can open greater access to area education centers like colleges and high schools, provide access to medical facilities, and reduce the number of cars on the road.
An example of a similar sized area to SDG with a transit system is just across the river in New York State. St. Lawrence County is double the area of Cornwall and SDG combined, with 2,000 fewer people. That county’s bus system serves most of the 38 constituent municipalities with nine daily routes and several tri-weekly routes. A majority of the buses are handicap accessible as well.
Starting a bus system may seem daunting. However SDG is fortunate to have the city of Cornwall which operates one of the oldest transit systems in Canada. The counties could partner with the city, or at least consult and share knowledge. Connecting Alexandria to Ingleside, and Iroquois to Cornwall by bus may sound like a pipe dream. However rural municipalities should consider transit as a method to bridge the gap to get to larger population centers and services. Connecting these communities through something other than vehicle ownership would make rural communities more viable. Enjoying the services of a city, without having to move to one, is an appealing option.
The benefits of a transit system are immense. With higher levels of government targeting transit for investment, and given the population in Cornwall and SDG, it is time for this county to catch the bus.