PERTH COUNTY – According to Maggie Martin, transit project coordinator for PC Connect, before the current Stay-At-Home order from the province, the county transit system was experiencing steady growth. From the launch of the service on Nov. 16 to Dec. 31 there was a total of 109 passengers with 68 passengers on route A in the north end of the county and 49 on route B in the south end.
“As transportation is deemed an essential service we will continue to operate responsibly to get riders to their essential needs such as employment,” said Martin.
Communication with the public is now focused on informing residents that the service is operating for essential travel only and educating riders on how to travel safely and responsibly. All other paid marketing efforts have been put on hold.
“A series of COVID-19 preventative measures are continuing to be enforced on all of our fleet which includes 50 per cent reduced capacity, mandatory face coverings and increased sanitization practices,” she said.
Martin added that PC Connect has been consulting with Huron Perth Public Health and other transportation services to monitor the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape.
“The committee revisited the decision to join the Southwest Community Transit Association (SCT) and have put forward the motion to officially join the association the Memorandum Of Understanding,” she said. “The SCT is made of other community transportation grant recipients to formalize our working relationship to create economies of scale for common project elements such as a booking app which we are hoping to acquire shortly.”
Coun. Daryl Herlick said it was good news that there was growth in ridership. He mentioned that other communities are cutting back on transportation hours of operation.
“It’s interesting times for sure around transit because they are getting beat up heavy in the cities and it’s unique,” he said. “We’ll see how this works out and we’ll go forward.”
Coun. Rhonda Ehgoetz wondered whether they will decide not to run the buses during COVID. “If we get one passenger will we change it or we get no passengers or will we always just keep them running?” she asked.
Martin said it was hard to know what might happen with the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 they will continue to run the service if possible because people need to get to essential services.
“We are seeing a lot of people use it to get to work specifically,” she said. “We’ve seen some uptake at LTI which is great … We are confident our precautions and preventative measures are doing great.”
If there were to be a case of COVID-19 connected to the service Martin said they would revisit the decision to continue service and that is being monitored daily.
Warden James Aitcheson talked with Martin earlier in the week about whether the transit system should keep running.
“At this point, Stratford would like to see it keep running and people are using it for essential service,” he said. “Ridership in January is down substantially but there are some people still needing that service so at this point we are going to keep it running and as Maggie said if we run into COVID that will be a whole new discussion and we’ll be calling a meeting of the transportation committee … but we are also stressing that it is for essential travel only.”
Aitcheson said that when the ridership was picking up the service seemed to be received better than he had anticipated by the community.
Council voted unanimously in favour of receiving the report and signing the MOU to officially join the SCT.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner