Councillors Acknowledge Transit Woes

Orillia city councillors ride bus system for the first time ever.

By: Tom Rose, Staff Writer

PC: Pedraic/ Flickr

We’ve reported before on the city’s transit issues, and while we students and members of the community at large have been promised significant changes, time and time again we find ourselves let down. Despite repeated promises for a transit system that is better, faster, and quite possibly stronger, about the most we can say at this point is that at least we haven’t seen any of those god-awful school buses in a few months. A sign of changes, perhaps, but not the changes we so desperately need.

Take heart, readers. Things may be turning around yet. This past Wednesday, February 8th, city councillors took to streets of Orillia and rode the transit system. The Packet & Times reports that for councillors Rob Kloostra and Sarah Valliquette-Thompson, it was the first time they have ever used Orillia’s less than stellar system. Fellow councillor Mason Ainsworth and manager of engineering and transportation Wesley Cyr joined the new initiates on their journey, which started at Brian Orser Arena on Gill Street. Ainsworth, a Lakehead alum and veteran of the transit system, had the crew trek to a further stop to more appropriately experience what us regular joes do on a daily basis. Unsurprisingly, they missed their bus and had to wait for the next round, which didn’t arrive for another forty minutes.

The councillors chatted with riders and handed out pamphlets on the city’s Transit Rider working group for the majority of their four-hour trip, which also saw them miss the West Ridge route after it dropped them off late, and then somehow immediately turned up early. This problem in particular is one Lakehead students know all too well, and one they’ll be happy to hear the city has been working on. While funding for a sixth route is routinely denied by council, Kloostra and Valliquette-Thompson’s responses to their experience this week indicate that may change the next time the budget comes up for review. In the meantime, there is a suggestion that the West Ridge route be split into A and B alternations, like the current South route, only going to Walmart half the time.

Also under consideration was the status of stops. Currently, the city’s winter maintenance policy sees only 25 stops cleared of snow, a policy which Valliquette-Thompson noted makes boarding “awful”, as she struggled to get the stroller holding her 16 month-old daughter on board. Ultimately, the trip ended with Kloostra forced to find an alternative ride to ensure attendance at a previous commitment in Barrie. Maybe this is the shot in the arm the system needs.