Using Collaboration to Deal with Challenges

Date: December 14, 2018

The Ontario Community Transportation Network (OCTN) held its final webinar in a 3-part series on the theme Addressing Community Transportation within Current Contexts on the afternoon of December 13, 2018. The title of this webinar was “Using Collaboration to Deal with Challenges” and two guest speakers from Connecting Northumberland and Quinte Access addressed the topic.

These two Community Transportation (CT) services in south eastern Ontario have been in operation, in various capacities, over the last 30 years. One of the keys to their success and survival has been ongoing collaboration and coordination with various community partners and other CT programs. Both Anne Newman and Shelly Ackers spoke about their experiences and lessons learned, followed by questions and discussion.

Anne Newman, Program Coordinator for the Connecting Northumberland transportation system at Community Care Northumberland (CCN), began the presentation. She has worked with CCN for almost a year now, recently transitioning into the transportation department to address a common gap for clients found across all programming within the organization: access to transportation. Since coming into her current position, Anne has been struck by the amount of community collaboration that is present at CCN and within Northumberland County generally.

Anne believes that the interconnections and community vibe that exists is very strong, and that it has been essential to the success of the transportation program as a whole. For instance, the person in the role prior to her worked tirelessly to build relationships with various organizations, including Quinte Access. Anne spoke about the way that people in the community work together to fill gaps in transportation services, not only avoiding duplication of services but actually enhancing those services that already exist. She is very pleased to now be part of this effort.

Following up on Anne, Shelly Ackers spoke about the connections between Connecting Northumberland and Qunite Access, as well as other transportation collaborations that she has been part of. Shelly has worked with Quinte Access since 2006 and was recently appointed Executive Director. She has been instrumental to the growth of Quinte Access as a transportation program over the last decade. During this time, Shelly’s worked with other staff & the Board of Directors to increase ridership on their specialized transportation service, implement a service in Prince Edward County, develop public transit in the Trenton Ward of Quinte West and run transit from Brighton to Trenton.

Over the last 30 years Quinte Access has grown incrementally by necessity, and Shelly emphasized that developing community transportation is a process which does not evolve overnight. She too spoke of the importance of collaborations with local organizations and other communities doing this type of work. For instance, Quinte Access started small and slowly extended and expanded their base (both ridership and geographic reach). In order to deal with challenges that have emerged over time, Quinte Access and Deseronto Transit have collaborated to share resources and facilitate their mutual expansions. By integrating some of their services into more of a transportation “system” they were both able to expand routes & services, and achieve greater success than if they had been operating on their own.

In their presentations and the follow-up discussion, Anne and Shelly each made note of the importance of being flexible and having the ability to grow incrementally (step-by-step, and slowly over time) based on the opportunities & resources available. They also talked about the need for continuous learning, and ongoing relationship building & collaboration with: municipalities (townships & county/regional level); community, health & social service organizations; education & training institutions; employers & other economic development representatives, among others. Specifically, funding from the province was mentioned as critical to the existence of their programs (through the provincial Public Transit Gas Tax Fund & the MTO CT Grant Program) and partnerships with local municipalities is/was a requirement in order to access it.

Finally, more than ever, when organizations and municipalities are in difficult situations regarding transportation delivery (e.g., when funding has not come through or if amounts received are reduced), then being able to build on existing relationships & collaborations is key. It is in hard times that people really need to come together to re-visit future plans and/or current delivery models so as to make adjustments and ensure the best use of remaining resources. And sometimes, the pooling of knowledge, systems and/or resources may even allow for things to not only continue but actually expand or improve!

* To access a recording of this webinar (including the discussion that followed & related slides), as well as the recording of several other OCTN hosted webinars, please visit the Resources section of this website and look under "Webinars", or click here.