News Local

Port Hope council looks at changes to transit system

Cecilia Nasmith

By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today

Seen last summer waiting to board the bus for Port Hope's Route B, Councillor Terry Hickey was joined by fellow councillor Robert Polutnik for a ride that would give them an opportunity to talk to the people who use the town's transit system.
CECILIA NASMITH/Northumberland Today file photo

Seen last summer waiting to board the bus for Port Hope's Route B, Councillor Terry Hickey was joined by fellow councillor Robert Polutnik for a ride that would give them an opportunity to talk to the people who use the town's transit system. CECILIA NASMITH/Northumberland Today file photo

PORT HOPE - 

A resolution with potential to overhaul the Port Hope transit system will be prepared for council when it returns Sept. 5.

As discussed at the August council meeting, the resolution calls for three big changes.

• The two-route-one-hour service will be replaced with a two-route-30-minute service in the urban area and a new express shuttle as of Oct. 2.

• Council will consider approving $148,000 funding (from the Provincial Gas Tax Reserve Fund) as the municipal portion to purchase three new mini-buses, with the remaining $24,000 from the surplus of the Transit Automated Announcement System capital project in accordance with Public Transit Infrastructure Fund requirements.

• The fare structure will be changed as of Oct. 2.

Changes to the buses, changes to the schedules and changes to the fares equal a proposal for a very complicated undertaking, and Mayor Bob Sanderson proposed an amendment — a three-month trial period of the new schedule before raising the fares.

The hour-long bus rides have long been a sore point among riders. So while the half-hour rides may be welcome news, the reconfiguration of the routes has resulted in some changes that may be less convenient for some riders. Sanderson expects it will take some time to figure out if the routes are right.

As for the Cobourg-Port Hope service, Cobourg contributes $20,000 a year, but they hope to discuss the amount further with Cobourg. But Hickey pointed out that the number of Port Hopers travelling to Cobourg for shopping, working or appointments definitely exceeds the number of Cobourgers going to Port Hope.

The fare increases are steep, Sanderson said — virtually double for seniors.

Current fares of $2 for adults and $1.50 for seniors and students will all rise to $3 (except that children under four years of age ride free). Monthly passes will also grow more expensive — $60 for adults (rising from $50) and $50 for seniors and students (up from $30).

“Looking at fares across the province, fares are increasing,” Councillor Terry Hickey said.

The councillor called it a social transit system, in that fares don’t cover the cost of providing the service, but the service is subsidized by tax revenues in order to take care of people who don’t have cars.

“We are trying to get the ridership to pay more, trying to balance this,” he said.

The two main buses have been plagued with problems and out of service for some time, Hickey said, and new buses are needed sooner rather than later.

“We are getting a couple of times a day when the bus is full and 90% of the day when the bus is empty. It is incumbent upon this council to create a plan that is the most efficient for this community.

“We will probably have times when the bus is not big enough, but I am quite confident the bus will serve our needs 90% to 95% of the time.

“I am being straight with everyone — we might have some problems. But I am comfortable with 90% to 95% of the time in providing a more efficient and cost-effective service to the community.”

“There’s no one good solution for this – we’re just trying to make it effective,” Councillor Robert Polutnik agreed.

“I think they need an opportunity to try this program. If it doesn’t work, they are going to come back and say so,” he said.

cnasmith@postmedia.com