Keep it simple

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I’ve lived in the County for seven-plus years. County council was talking about public transportation before I arrived. It’s discussed it since. Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent. It’s long past time something was done.

If other Association of Municipalities of Ontario cities and towns can deliver public transit to their constituents, why has Haliburton County not been able to?

Granted, it’s complicated. The County is more than 4,000-square-kilometres. The logistics of getting a bus, from say, Dorset in the north, to Wilberforce in the east, and to hamlets such as Carnarvon and West Guilford, and all points in between, has so far proven impossible.
Consequently, councils have thrown their hands up in the air in capitulation, constantly kicking the tires but never getting the wheels in motion.

Part of the problem has been trying to offer a service that provides all things to all people. The wish list has been long. Dial-a-ride to get to people’s doors. Accessible in every way, shape and form. Serving as many villages as humanly possible. All of this rendered complex and expensive propositions.

Then there’s the four-township challenge, as I like to call it. Since every municipality pays into the County’s transportation reserve, they all, naturally, want a piece of the pie. However, that has also resulted in nothing happening to date.

So, Coun. Bob Carter’s notice of motion last week – that the County look into a simple shuttle between Minden and Haliburton as a starting point – is refreshing.

No dial-a-ride. No manner of strapping on bicycles and watercraft. Catch route one from Minden to Haliburton at set times of the day, and catch route two back again, six days a week. In other words, keep it simple.

Warden Liz Danielsen – who is the mayor of Algonquin Highlands – raised the point her constituents don’t want to pay for a service that only benefits Haliburton and Minden. And Highlands East Coun. Cec Ryall certainly doesn’t want his folks paying operational costs for a service they are not benefitting from.

I see their point. I live in Carnarvon and pay taxes to Minden Hills. I wouldn’t be crazy about subsidizing a bus that ran between Algonquin Highlands and Highlands East exclusively. However, if a bus between Minden and Haliburton means the stores and services I use there can be bolstered by, say, more employees, and therefore longer opening hours, I’d be happy to see my tax dollars used for that.

All too often our parochialism blinds us as to how we can benefit from better services in our larger centres, and let’s face it, those larger centres are Haliburton and Minden.

The County should absolutely see if there is a provider out there willing to do a two-year pilot project between Haliburton and Minden. The money is there, with more than $200,000 in a reserve. If it’s working, then consider adding some of the other major hamlets, such as Wilberforce and Dorset. If it can’t be expanded, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Figure out how Minden Hills and Dysart et al can fund it, and reimburse whomever has to be reimbursed.

But, please, County council, do not squander another attempt to provide this service to at least some of your residents.

Not everyone needs a Tesla charging station, but quite a few need a bus.