by Kris Svela
Wellington North could be the testing ground for a transit system for mentally and physically challenged residents that could, if proven successful, spread across Wellington County.
Ward 3 county councillor Gary Williamson, whose ward takes in about two-thirds of Wellington North, raised the issue of a disability transit system to the
local council on Jan. 24.
According to Williamson, the system would be operated by Saugeen Mobility and Regional Transit (SMART), which runs the service in Arran-Elderslie, Brockton, Hanover, Kincardine and West Grey and is headquartered in Hanover.
“We all know society is aging,” Williamson told council. “They have to right to remain mobile.”
A similar service was provided by local taxis, but regulations prohibited taxi companies from providing the service, said Williamson. He recounted a situation where a disabled person was forced to rent a handicapped bus to attend a funeral. According to Williamson, handicap transit should be available to all who require it.
“SMART is willing to expand their services,” he added. “They are prepared to purchase extra vehicles to provide the service.”
SMART is a non-profit, independent organization governed by participating municipalities which contribute to its operation based on ridership. In 2009,
SMART provided approximately 22,000 rides. As of October last year, the system had provided 17,798 rides and had 424 active clients.
Currently clients are charged a base rate of $2 plus 80 cents per kilometer subject to a minimum charge of $6.80 per ride. The client can have one attendant ride for free. If a driver is required to wait for a client, a wait charge of $17 an hour is applied. A ride is determined as going from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ with any return considered a second ride.
“SMART is the largest MTO (Ministry of Transportation Ontario) supported specialized transit provider in Grey and Bruce counties,” Roger Cook, Manager of Transit Services, states in a booklet on the service given to councillors.
Costs to participating municipalities vary. In 2010 West Grey was expected to provide $29,672 in its allocation based on a ridership of 592. Williamson
said a similar service in Wellington North could cost about $25,000 which would depend on the number of people using it. He said the service would also
be available for group outings from nursing and seniors’ homes.
Council suggested Cook be invited to a meeting to explain the service.
“There certainly is a strong need for seniors,” Mayor Ray Tout said. “It’s certainly a service that is long overdue.”