Editorial – No ticket to ride

An ambitious pilot project started this week connecting several communities along the County Road 2 corridor to the city by bus. That project offers affordable bus transportation on weekdays with convenient times. It has 11 stops that connect major employers and shopping areas with rural towns and villages. It fills a gap in the transportation needs for the county. There is only one problem – this service is not in SDG County.

River Route connects the villages of Cardinal, Johnstown, and Maitland, and the town of Prescott, with the City of Brockville. There are stops at major employers (Invista, Ingredion, and Giant Tiger), and even an elementary school. This pilot project is funded in part by the Eastern Ontario Leadership Council, with support from the municipalities involved. Innovative thinking like this is needed in SDG County to address access-to-transportation issues.

Transportation in SDG is difficult without a vehicle. Car ownership is essential, even to get the basic necessities. Without a vehicle, accessing even essential medical appointments is expensive. A recently quoted one-way trip by taxi from South Dundas to Cornwall was $90. A one-way trip of a similar distance on the River Route is $5.

The argument is often made that transit systems are money losing enterprises and not a good use of tax money – especially in rural areas. That is false. All transportation modes in Canada have some form of taxpayer subsidy or support. In SDG County, residents pay millions  yearly for the construction and maintenance of municipal roads. Roads are money losing enterprises too.

Starting a bus system to serve even part of SDG County addresses three of the county council’s five priorities: smarter service delivery; sustainability; and if the route(s) are appropriate – support rural schools. It addresses all four points of SDG’s strategic plan as well.

It has been said by members of this SDG council that our neighbours are doing things smarter and better than here. This includes economic development, attracting new jobs, and now this rural transportation project. In comparison, this council spent over 30 minutes August 23 debating the width of a single homeowner’s driveway entrance to a county road. Nowhere is that smarter service delivery.

SDG is fortunate to have a good working partnership with the City of Cornwall, which also has a transit system. Extending bus service to parts of the county can be done. Given the amount of the Canada Community-Building Fund (gas tax) the county receives each year, and other partnerships that are available, the funding is available too. The only thing holding back SDG from a similar pilot project is the willingness to try it. That too is a similar story heard in The County.

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