News Local

Essa Township on hook for transit costs

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner



The 'Borden Rocket' is looking at a summer launch.

 City councillors gave initial approval Monday for a transit service partnership and funding agreement to provide buses to Essa Township.

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said bus service is just one way the city can work with its neighbours.

"This just might be the thin edge of the wedge," he said. "It's a good example of how we can work together."

Two buses would operate from Barrie Transit Terminal along County Road 90 to parts of Angus, stopping at CFB Borden. The exact route, hours of operation and frequency of the buses would still need to be finalized, but weekday service in the mornings, mid-day and afternoons is anticipated

The target date is August, 2013, when Barrie's new transit plan also kicks in.

"It recognizes the economic impact the base has one our municipality," said Coun. John Brassard, chairman of Barrie's transportation and economic development committee. "There are 1,000 people who live in Barrie and work at the base, who won't have to drive their car."

A 2011 community transit survey for Essa and Borden identified employment and shopping as the primary needs for transit.

If Monday's motion is given final approval next week, it would allow city staff to negotiate with Essa Township and the County of Simcoe, which has already committed $50,000 toward the service this year and the same amount in 2014.

Both Essa Township and the County of Simcoe have agreed in principle to pay for the net operating costs of the service, leaving little risk to Barrie.

"It's full cost recovery to the City of Barrie," said George Kaveckas, the city's transit manager. "They (Essa and the county) are taking the risk for us."

Besides the environmental advantages of having less vehicles on local roads and highways, Kaveckas said the bus service would mean seamless travel between Barrie, Essa Township, Angus and Base Borden, and boost Barrie Transit ridership. He did note there would be a two-zone fare structure - one for the city, one for beyond its borders.

Essa Township council will soon look at a motion similar to the one Barrie councillors considered Monday.

If there's no deal by May 1, however, city staff will report back to Barrie councillors.

The bus service would come with an annual estimated budget of $364,270.

Part of the cost recovery is Barrie applying for Ontario gas tax funding from the province, as the host municipality providing public transit services; the city would directly receive all Ontario gas tax revenue related to this bus service, and it would be applied to the operating costs.

City staff estimate Essa Township could receive $140,000 annually in Ontario gas tax.

The agreement would also allow Barrie or Essa to cancel the service with no less than 90- days notice, with the township bearing all cancellation costs.

Brassard says he's contacted Barrie MP Patrick Brown to see if Defence Minister Peter MacKay will come to help launch the service in August, and be one of the first ones to ride the bus to Base Borden.

Col. Tammy Harris, Base Borden's commander, has written a letter to Simcoe County Warden Cal Patterson expressing her support for the transit service.

Lehman has said the Essa transit idea was originally raised by former Base Commander Gen. Louis Meloche, when he and Lehman got together during an introductory meeting in early 2011.

Lehman has said there are about 900 permanent Base Borden personnel who live in Barrie, and hundreds more military personnel who are on rotation in various training programs at the base. He estimates there are at least 1,000 people going from Barrie to Borden every day.

Lehman has dubbed this bus service the ‘Borden Rocket’, and it would give military personnel an option for travel to and from Barrie they currently lack.

It could also help build ridership on the city’s transit system, as many of the riders on the Borden-Essa route may transfer onto other parts of the system, or buy monthly passes.

The 'Borden Rocket' would be launched along with Barrie's new transit plan, slated for an August start.

Barrie's new bus system will serve multiple transit hubs, at major destinations, in different parts of the city. Routes will double up on major roads, so there will be 15-minute service on many of Barrie's busiest streets, instead of the 30-minute service today.

The hubs will be at Georgian Mall, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, Georgian College, the current downtown bus station, Allandale Waterfront GO Station, Holly Community Centre, Park Place and South Barrie GO Station.

Barrie Transit's existing 21 routes will be replaced with 10 more efficient ones.




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