Local transportation advocates issued an open letter to the County of Haliburton council raising concern with the work being done by a transportation consultant Dec. 28.
In a letter to County Warden Liz Danielsen, Rural Transportation Options (RTO) chair Heather Ross said the group was disappointed the county’s transportation consultant, IBI Group, did not consult more with the county’s transportation taskforce throughout the process. IBI Group was initially hired in January 2018, with council allocating $50,000 towards it to create a transportation implementation plan.
“We are disappointed that through this whole process IBI has not tapped into the experience of the transportation taskforce (as a group or as individuals) or of RTO or any other agency. We ask that IBI consult with the taskforce in order to inform its final report to County Council,” Ross said in a letter.
Ross also said the taskforce, which RTO is a member of, was confused by an initial September report from IBI Group presenting a fixed-route service as a possibility when the task force had recommended a booked, shared-ride service.
However, a subsequent November report from IBI Group to county council recommended the county proceed with the shared-ride service over a fixed-route service.
In an email, Danielsen said this letter was county council’s first indication there was any concern about IBI Group’s work and she had passed it on to staff for consideration.
“The consultant will be reporting to council during our Jan. 23 meeting and any concerns will also be addressed at that time,” she said in the email. “I am reluctant to speak on behalf of council prior to this discussion taking place other than to say that we are committed to finding solutions for transportation that are practical and will work for our residents.”
Community transportation project co-ordinator Tina Jackson said the task force had done a lot of work throughout 2017 to explore different models of transportation before arriving at a recommendation to the county to proceed with a shared-ride service.
“Really, when IBI was hired and brought into the picture in 2018 the idea was not for them to identify the type of model but to create an implementation plan with the model selected,” Jackson said in an interview. “What we’re looking for is just a little bit more detail.”
Ross said in an interview that county staff has told them to be patient. After its November report, IBI is set to present a final implementation plan to county council.
But she added the task force sought to send a message with the new council in place following the municipal election.
“With the last council we really were quite successful at moving this issue,” she said. “We want to keep that particular momentum to the new council.”
A request for comment sent to IBI Group was redirected to County of Haliburton administration.
The RTO letter also asks council, through its budgeting process, to continue to support the transportation taskforce. Ross said the county has not yet indicated about continued funding for the taskforce, adding it is important the group continue its work.
“It is important it keeps going because it’s such a collection of knowledge,” Ross said. “We’re very hopeful the county will provide some funding for it.”