News Local

Town wants funding help from county

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Innisfil is hoping for a little help from its public transit friends.

Town council is asking Barrie and Bradford West Gwillimbury to support its application to the County of Simcoe for funding toward Innisfil's ride-sharing transit service.

It's asking for as much as $50,000, or half of annual costs, to be paid by the county.

“Innsifil's population is growing rapidly and residents have expressed a strong desire for a cost-effective transit system that provides connections to key community destinations, as well as the GO and City of Barrie transit systems,” said Jason Reynar, Innisfil's CAO, in a letter to the county.

Last month Innisfil council approved the launch of a ride-sharing transit service – a partnership with Uber for general rides and with local taxi companies for accessible rides.

It also approved $100,000 funding this year and $125,000 next year to implement the service.

In his letter, Reynar said this service could work county-wide as well.

“We also feel that this may be a model that could be used to help implement public transit in municipalities throughout the County of Simcoe,” he said, “as the same challenges of limited capital resources, low population densities and large geographic areas are common throughout the county.”

Last year, Innisfil council asked its staff to assess more cost-effective, demand-based transit solutions after determining that a traditional bus service for all town residents would be too expensive.

The ride-sharing system means the town need not pay up-front costs such as buses and shelters, along with ongoing operational and maintenance costs.

But the town will pick up a portion of the Uber or taxi fares – after an Innisfil resident has paid the $3-$5 base fee.

Innisfil will also look at community partnerships with Georgian Downs, Tanger Outlet Mall and the Canadian Red Cross, among others, to provide the service.

With a population of 38,000, Innisfil has had repeated requests from its residents for public transit, to link people in Alcona, Sandycove, Cookstown and Stroud to GO bus stops and other venues, including town hall and Innisfil Recreation Complex at Innisfil Beach Road and Yonge Street.

The city has a public bus system, Barrie Transit, but has nonetheless dealt with Uber and ride-sharing lately.

New bylaws dealing with taxi and ride-sharing services have been passed that include a new, one-year pilot project that creates licensing costs and regulations for ride-sharing companies like Uber, while cutting them back for the taxi industry, beginning Aug. 1.

Uber is a ride-sharing business which has generally offered lower prices than licensed taxis, in part because it doesn't have the same level of regulation.

The city has said its taxi industry regulations are inadequate to deal with riding-sharing or driver-for-hire businesses, and don't allow the taxi industry to compete fairly.

It's unknown when city council will deal with Innisfil's request.

Barrie councillors next meet April 24.

 

With files by Miriam King

bbruton@postmedia.com