Transit company pitches accessible taxi/transport service for Grey Highlands budget talks

·3 min read

The Grey Highlands council will consider adding an accessible transit service to the municipality in their 2022 budget deliberations.

Saugeen Mobility and Regional Transit (SMART) has offered to give the Grey Highlands a trial of their services through 2022 for $24,000.

The not-for-profit provides accessible transit services to people for whom physical and mental barriers prevent them from using conventional transit systems, offering door-to-door rides for both individuals and groups.

Services are offered Monday through Friday, with Saturday rides available if booked in advance.

The service is commonly used to access healthcare, but transportation is available for virtually any type of trip.

“This is a valuable service to the clients who need it – it’s their lifeline to their communities, to their medical appointments, to employment, schooling, to family members,” said SMART manager Roger Cook at a September presentation to council.

Passengers pay a $2 service charge for rides and a rate of $0.55 per kilometre, with a minimum charge of $7.50 per ride for local services.

Charter-style trips, where vehicles are dedicated to a single passenger, begin at $22.

Passengers are allowed to have an attendant ride with them for free.

SMART currently operates a fleet of 27 vehicles across nine municipalities in Grey County and Bruce County, and they provided over 35,000 rides through 2019.

Grey Highlands council moved to discuss adding the service in their upcoming budget deliberations at last week’s council meeting.

The move comes after a September presentation by SMART to council, and on the recommendation by the Senior’s Advisory Committee to give a green light to the services for 2022.

Following a one year trial period, Grey Highlands would have the opportunity to become a partner municipality with SMART, where its fee for the service would be calculated through municipal population and the size of the user base.

“[SMART] reported at the presentation that West Grey would be contributing $80,000, I believe, for this year, so it's a long way from the $24,000,” said Councillor Paul Allen. “If we want to go ahead it could be substantially more of a contribution, but even at $80,000 it's less than one per cent of our budget."

"To me, it’s a small price to pay if people are going to use it.”

A municipal partnership with SMART would require Grey Highlands to give a year’s notice prior to terminating the service.

Council asked whether SMART could provide transit services for people without physical or mental disabilities, such as the senior population or people living on rural sideroads.

Cook said that SMART currently does not offer this type of service, but that it could potentially offer conventional transit services to Grey Highlands in the future, given approval by its board of directors.

“SMART currently does not provide transportation based on age, transportation is based on ability. Otherwise healthy residents who are over 65 are, at this time, expected to use local taxis,” he said.

“SMART can certainly provide the service, it would just be a matter of the board of directors approving that expansion of the service. There are services like this in the province that provide service beginning at age 55.”

Council's budget deliberations are scheduled to take place on Nov. 22, 24, 29, and 30, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Greg McGrath-Goudie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

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