City Removes Hurdle to Access With New Bus Stop Outside Orillia Recreation Centre

New bus stop outside facility means world of difference for local man and others Frank Matys
Orillia Today
Tuesday, June 28, 2022

This started out as a very different story.

For Orillia resident Mark Moore, however, it was the unexpected ending that mattered.

The local man, who has multiple disabilities, contacted in early June to voice frustration with the “appalling” hurdle he and other city transit users faced in accessing the Orillia Recreation Centre.

The nearest bus stop was situated on the opposite side of West Street South, a four-lane road that presents a crossing danger for people with disabilities, older adults and parents with young children, Moore said.

“We’ve got this wonderful, beautiful facility, but there’s a whole huge segment of the population that can’t safely access it,” the 28-year-old said at the time.

Moore, who said he is not eligible to use the Orillia Wheelchair Limousine Service, was left to rely on friends and family to drive him to the facility.

That happened “not as much as I would like, as someone with a disability who is trying to live as independent a life as possible.”

The issue pointed to a gap in accessibility, one that, unbeknownst to Moore, was about to be addressed in a meaningful way.

The city recently announced Orillia’s South A and B transit routes would now service the recreation centre’s main entrance every 30 minutes during regular transit hours.

Jeff Hunter, manager of construction and transit, said part of the challenge in making that happen involved a perceived difficulty in northbound buses turning left into the property, as well as turning left while exiting the site to reach the transit terminal.

“We started to explore maybe doing different routing, trying to reverse the route,” Hunter said of an option that would have “been pretty expensive.”

The issue took on added priority as pandemic restrictions were eased and residents began to make greater use of the facility.

Hunter said the city urged its transit provider, TOK Transit, to try the left-hand turn in and out of the property and said it proved workable.

The result was “a big win for us,” said Hunter, adding staff had heard from facility users who raised the accessibility issue.

“We want to make it accessible for everybody,” he said, noting city buses feature fold-out ramps while the vehicles’ front ends can “kneel down” for easier boarding.

For Moore, word of the new stop came as “wonderful news.”

On top of ensuring safe access, “it will also allow teams and facility user groups to promote the availability of direct public transit access to the facility to non-Orillia teams as they are organizing tournaments,” he added.

Accessibility advocate Tyhme Thompson applauded the measure, while adding that more work is needed to address barriers.

“Since becoming a wheelchair user, I’ve seen a slow progression,” she said. “More awareness is happening, but we definitely need more from a provincial standard.”

She recounted a recent incident in which a sidewalk along West Street was partially blocked by a parked scooter that, in combination with a nearby tree, narrowed the sidewalk to the extent that she was forced onto the busy road in her wheelchair.

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