Moving Ahead on Rural and Community Transportation Forum

Date: July 21, 2016

The Moving Ahead on Rural and Community Transportation event was held on March 29th, 2016, in Sutton, ON. The Rural Ontario Institute (ROI), partnered with the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC) & HC Link, and Routes Connecting Communities to organize and host this forum for rural and community transportation stakeholders.

Attendees included representatives from municipal government, NGOs, private transportation companies, and the provincial government.

Significant steps are being taken by many municipalities and other stakeholders to improve community transportation in areas around Ontario. The event was held so that participants could gain information, share experiences and lessons learned, and help support peer-to-peer networking. Representatives from diverse organizations that are implementing community transportation initiatives were in attendance, with over 100 people from across the province attending both in-person and online via live-streaming/webinar.

Things kicked off with an exercise to provide opportunities for networking and to get to know who was in the room or online. The majority of participants represented municipal and regional government, followed by the non-profit sector. Others working within the private and education sectors were also in attendance. Representatives attended from the following regions and districts:

  • Grey-Bruce
  • Haliburton
  • Hastings
  • Kawartha Lakes
  • Kenora (Dryden)
  • Lambton (Sarnia)
  • Lanark
  • Leeds and Grenville (Brockville)
  • Lennox-Addington
  • Muskoka
  • Niagara
  • Norfolk
  • Nipissing
  • Northumberland
  • Perth County (Stratford)
  • Peterborough
  • Simcoe
  • Timiskaming
  • Wellington/Waterloo
  • York (Georgina)

A presentation was then given by Cathy Wilkinson from Routes Connecting Communities, which is a transportation provider serving the northern part of York Region. Their volunteer drivers use their own vehicles to provide available, accessible and affordable transportation to people who are restricted due to life circumstances such as financial hardship, health issues, and geographic, social or cultural isolation.

Cathy’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion with three other transportation service providers in the province, including: 1) Brad Smith from Ride Norfolk, 2) Heather Inwood-Montrose from The Rural Overland Utility Transit (TROUT), and 3) Rick Williams from Muskoka Extended Transit (MET). The panelists focused on sharing the challenges and successes that they have experienced in delivering public transit in their respective areas.

Panelists Rick Williams, Heather Inwood-Montrose, and Brad Smith share their experiences.

Next the Ministry of Transportation offered an overview of community transportation (CT), and highlighted a few examples of initiatives that they are currently funding across the province through their Community Transportation Pilot Grant Program. This is a $2 million, 2-year pilot grant program to provide financial assistance to Ontario municipalities for the development and implementation of community transportation initiatives. As part of the CT Program, 22 municipalities have undertaken projects to either start or expand collaborative projects in their regions. The MTO representative also announced that they would be continuing to support communities around the province with increased networking and engagement opportunities. 

Following lunch, participants broke into small groups to discuss five topics:

  1. Building Community Support - demonstrating the need and/or making the case for community transportation
  2. Collaboration & Partnership Building - managing different organizational mandates and moving forward
  3. Revenue Generation & Funding - using both traditional and innovative or creative approaches to generating funds
  4. Marketing & Promotion - of new and/or existing transportation services
  5. Technology - procuring vehicles, using integrated software, and other forms of technology

The day ended with a live streaming presentation by Caryn Souza from the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA). The CTAA consists of organizations and individuals who support mobility for all Americans regardless of where they live or work. Their membership includes community transit providers, public transit agencies, organizations providing health care and/or employment services, government, college and university planners, private bus companies, taxi operators, people concerned with the special mobility needs of those with disabilities, manufacturers and many other organizations who share a commitment to mobility. Caryn explained that there are many different programs that the CTAA is currently involved in, from mobility management to transit planning and ridesharing across the nation.

Overall, the day was full of information about Community Transportation in both Ontario and the USA. Participants said that it was great to be in a room/online with others working on the same issue, to have the opportunity to learn from one another, share similar struggles and brainstorm solutions. Many said that they were able to foster connections with other people working on-the-ground and that they learned something that they will be able to apply in their own communities.

Check here for information about upcoming events!