Special transit service solves some problems for some people
Transit is an issue in Niagara-on-the-Lake, especially for seniors unable to drive, but there is a regional service that could fill some of the gaps.
Last January, councillors asked staff to look at public transportation for NOTL residents needing to get to places in other municipalities such as a hospital or medical appointment, and report back.
At the last meeting before the holiday break, Coun. Betty Disero mentioned the regional service, which, she said, few people know about it.
One of the services that is available to NOTL residents, that they’re not necessarily aware of, is an inter-municipal transit service for people who have mobility problems, Disero said.
There is a new provider taking over the region’s inter-municipal special transit service from the Red Cross - BTS Network has the new contract - but that change isn’t expected to have much impact on those who use it.
Disero asked staff to look at how best to tell NOTL residents about the service and come up with a communication plan.
The service will only work for NOTL residents if they know about it, she said.
“If people don’t know about it, what’s the point in having the service?”
She suggested possibilities such as including the information in tax bills, on local bulletin boards or posting it in NOTL buses.
But “it’s not for us to do,” said Coun. Jim Collard, blaming the region’s poor record for communications, and suggesting the region be sent a message that the service should be better advertised.
With its billion-dollar budget, he said, they are the ones who should be spending money on raising awareness of the service, rather than the town.
“Our message to the region should be ‘you need to tell your people in the region how this works’,” said Collard. “Why aren’t they doing this?”
Lord Mayor Pat Darte said he believes, if asked, regional staff would say they are doing it to the best of their ability.
If that level of communication is not to the town’s satisfaction, “maybe we have to fill in the gaps,” he said.
“It’s a regional issue - they’ve always been terrible communicators. They need to do it better,” said Collard.
“The region has a crisis of confidence in lots of areas, and clearly, their communication skill is one of them.”
While Collard agreed the town should help communicate the service to residents, he said, “really the region should be doing it.”
Darte said town staff will be asked to come up with a communication plan, and he would also convey Collard’s message to the region.
The service, said Sarah Holmes, transit co-ordinator for Niagara Region, is available for people who are physically unable to board a conventional transit vehicle or walk a specified distance - about 600 feet - to a bus stop.
It’s available to those who need to get to a hospital, or an appointment for medical, education or employment purposes.
At the moment, she said, NOTL residents could travel to any other municipality at a cost of $7.50 for a one-way trip, but in March, the fare structure will change, and to travel from one zone, such as NOTL, to another zone, such as St.Catharines, would cost $15.
Trips to appointments in Hamilton are also possible, she said, at a cost of $88.
At least two days’ notice is necessary, she said.
If a caregiver is required for the traveller, there would be no charge for that person, she said.
There is an application online for residents who want to use the service, and a doctor’s signature is required to show they qualify.
Holmes said that during the transition of providers, there hasn’t been a lot of advertising, and new brochures are being developed.
To book a trip on Niagara Specialized Transit, there is a direct line at 905-680-2052, or call 905-980-6000 and ask for Specialized Transit or dial ext. 3336.
For further information, or to obtain an application, visit the Region’s website at niagararegion.ca or call Niagara Specialized Transit.
The specialized transit system runs Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is not available Sundays or most holidays.