Edit – we never actually heard the result of this application for funding. An expanded transit system could have been a very positive development for North Grenville.
It was the first step and it was a big one. At Tuesday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, North Grenville Council voted to approve a municipal staff recommendation that the Municipality of North Grenville apply to the Community Transportation Grant Program offered by the provincial government for funding that would allow the municipality to implement a community transportation service. The recommendation also included that “staff be authorized to explore partnering with Allegiance Transportation Services (ATS) to apply for the funding”.
ATS was chosen as the required strategic partner (applicant municipalities must have at least one community partner capable of offering services or possessing significant transportation assets) because they were the only organization that was capable of providing (and currently offer) accessible transportation services. In addition, ATS provides a weekday commuter service to and from Ottawa. ATS recently reached an agreement to take over operation of North Grenville Accessible Transportation (NGAT) as of April 1st, which provided taxi-like accessible bus service to persons with disabilities in the Kemptville area.
When a municipality attempts to establish a public transportation service, it must be accessible. The commuter service combined with the accessible transportation service provided by ATS are the first two pillars of a complete public transit system for North Grenville. The other components of the system would be to first provide an internal service route within Kemptville and then to roll out a commuter service between the outlying hamlets of North Grenville.
The grant proposal would focus on the creation of this internal service route through Kemptville and provide any necessary enhancements to the existing accessible transportation service. Under those conditions, the funding could be used to buy an additional bus, bus service infrastructure (signage, ramps, shelters etc.), cover operations and maintenance costs, which would include legal fees and other costs associated with establishing the service.
Director of Planning and Development Phil Gerrard stated that the proposal came together under a very tight timeline as the announcement about the grant program was made in December of last year, but work on the proposal didn’t start until the new year. The deadline for the grant application was February 28, so Planner Jordan Jackson and Economic Development Officer Matt Gilmer had to pull everything together quickly. The NG Times was able to contribute in a small way towards the development of the proposal as the Municipality used data from last year’s NG Times online survey which asked residents questions about the prospect of a transit system.
As far as the funding goes, the amount of grant money available is up to $500,000 over five years. If the application is successful and the maximum money is received, it is anticipated that between the fees paid by system users and the grant, the transportation system should not require any additional municipal funding over the first five years. The Municipality intends to closely evaluate the service over the five years of the grant funding to ensure that the service is sustainable and has enough people using it. If not, the project may be cancelled at that point.
When asked if the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville (UCLG) were also applying for this grant funding, CAO Brian Carre said that they had contacted UCLG and were told that there would be no application coming from UCLG. Brian believed that this would have negatively impacted the likelihood of North Grenville being successful, despite the fact that UCLG would have to apply to a different funding stream. He said it’s unlikely that both the upper tier (UCLG) and the lower tier (North Grenville) municipalities would receive funding at the same time.
Phil added that the project would be rolled out in phases and he wanted to assure residents that there would be multiple public consultations and plenty of opportunities for residents to provide input on everything from possible routes to the amount of user fees.