A virtual public meeting was held on July 28 to provide a summary of current recommendations on the future of transit services in North Grenville, and to gather feedback from members of the community on what types of transit services are needed locally. Mayor Peckford opened the meeting with some background information on transit services in the Municipality.
“Over the last couple of years, even without the realities of the pandemic, we as a Municipality assumed more direct responsibility for accessible transit services in our communities,” she said. The Mayor explained that in 2019, the notfor-profit group North Grenville Accessible Transportation (NGAT) asked the Municipality to take over responsibility for providing accessible transit services. The study which is currently underway aims to ascertain what other transportation services should be provided locally. Mayor Peckford pointed out that, in the absence of private taxi services locally, residents need to rely on personal vehicles and rides from family and friends for transportation.
Some limitations of the current transportation service were discussed at the meeting. These include the low level of community awareness about the service, the necessity of booking a trip in advance, and the limited eligibility for the current service. Those who use transit services want flexibility in where and when they travel.
The fact that a commuter service to Ottawa is no longer offered is another aspect of transit being considered in the study, with many residents asking about the possibility of transportation to Brockville or other destinations along the St. Lawrence River as well. Mayor Peckford also added that a transit connection with Merrickville may be important, particularly because many Merrickville residents come to North Grenville to patronize local businesses. A resident further added that a regional approach to transit, including towns such as Winchester and Prescott, would make sense as well. A serious possibility is the connection of different towns within the Municipality via transit service.
Feedback and ideas from members of the public were very diverse. One resident pointed out that a bigger transit service could help the environment by reducing car exhaust emissions. Another pointed out that the Province was supposed to develop a transit plan for the community in relation to the proposed correctional facility to be built on the Kemptville Campus, but representatives from the consulting firm conducting the transit study were unaware of any such plan being presented yet. A senior who moved to Kemptville recently pointed out that she was hoping to be able to get around on foot as she doesn’t drive, but now she believes that a transit service is necessary due to the dangers of walking in town brought on by the large amount of traffic.
Several transit plan options were presented for consideration. One includes the potential for a regional service to connect the Municipality to an Ottawa LRT station, as well as on-demand local service. Another option is a regional service, as well as a fixed local bus route running on a set schedule. Other options include a regional service to the Johnstown area, deemed the “river route”, and the possibility of two bus routes running concurrently to reduce wait times, though this latter option may require some riders to transfer from one bus to another to reach their destination. The study includes an evaluation of various bus stop options around town, based on the demand for transit services in specific areas. Mayor Peckford made it clear that an on-demand service for the rural hamlets within North Grenville would be important.
Much detailed discussion took place throughout the meeting, with residents adding their various ideas about what a transit service should look like. For now, the study will continue, and a more formal plan will be presented to the Municipality in the coming months. It is expected that Council will deliberate a final transit plan later this year or early next year.