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Driving Our Community Forward – Northumberland Transportation Summit

Date: November 9, 2016

On Friday October 21st, 2016, I was able to attend an event about community transportation in Northumberland County. Driving Our Community Forward was hosted by Community Care Northumberland (CCN), and was an opportunity for the organization to share information about their transportation services as they have progressed over the last 8 years, as well as gather ideas for how they might continue to move forward.

One of the main reasons for the event was to highlight the initial results from their Measuring Rural Community Vitality project, which is part of a larger research initiative by the Rural Ontario Institute*. Community Care Northumberland’s research on community vitality focuses on evaluating the impact of expanding their transportation options into the rural areas of Northumberland County.

CCN’s research was conducted from May to October 2016, with the aim of answering the following two questions: 1) What has been the impact of providing transportation in rural areas on the lives of individuals, and 2) Does access to transportation change the level of opportunities available to these same individuals? An added objective of conducting the research, was to both increase awareness of local transportation options (amongst potential users and other stakeholders), and to gather information on any gaps and areas for improvement.

The study involved a couple of key research approaches which included, ‘ride-along conversations’ and the collection of rider stories/experiences, as well as a survey of both current and past riders. Information was also distributed and gathered at: local libraries, community hubs, employment centres, municipalities, food banks, resource centres and through other community organizations.

In total, 130 surveys were completed by 95 current riders and 35 past riders. The results showed that most riders were adults between the ages of 18 and 64 (76%), followed by seniors 65 and older (17%) and students/youth (7%). The main reasons or purposes for travel were for: Appointments, Shopping, Social Events, School, Outreach Programs, Meetings or Work (with the top destinations being: the Hospital/Extendicare/Doctor’s Offices, Community Living/YMCA, the County Building, Library and Fleming College). The majority of people heard about the transportation services available through word of mouth from family, friends or social service providers, and most of those surveyed said that they used the services because they either had no license and/or no vehicle, and because it was convenient. Many said that Community Care Northumberland’s transportation services provided them with: freedom, independence, and relief, as well as a feeling of ease and safety.

At the Driving Our Community Forward event, the presentation on this recent research was clearly a highlight. Members of the audience became quite engaged following it, with representatives from several agencies offering their own stories about how Community Care Northumberland’s transportation services have benefited their clients. In addition to the research presentation, a driver and a client also spoke from their own perspectives about the impacts and effects of CCN’s transportation services. All of this was followed by small group discussions to assist Community Care Northumberland in gathering further input so that they can continue to meet transportation needs in the community.

To wrap up the event, a ribbon cutting was held to launch a new van that was funded in part by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, along with other community partners. All in all the day was very informative and involved a wide variety of local stakeholders including municipal, provincial and federal government representatives.

To learn more about community transportation in Northumberland County, you can read a recent newspaper article on the various partners and funding involved, by clicking here or visiting our News page (see: “New Transit for rural community Care”, Sept 30, 2016). You can also download a case study that was written about Community Care Northumberland’s transportation services here, or by referring to our Reports page (see: Accelerating Rural Transportation Solutions: Ten Community Case Studies From Ontario, October 2014).

For more detailed information on CCN’s transportation services, please contact: Jessica Hoskin, Transportation Coordinator, Community Care Northumberland, j.hoskin@commcare.ca, 1 (866) 768-7778.

* To learn more about the Rural Ontario Institute’s Measuring Rural Community Vitality initiative, please contact Mark Cassidy, 519-826-4204, mcassidy@ruralontarioinstitute.ca or visit: Measuring Rural Community Vitality.