A proposed inter-community transit system for north Oxford, as presented by David Simpson, Oxford County director of public works, met with resistance at Tillsonburg town council on Oct. 13.
Representing the county and its member partners, Simpson spoke on a proposed inter-community collaborative partnership amongst Zorra, East-Zorra Tavistock and Blanford-Blenheim Townships. It would operate similar to Tillsonburg’s ‘south’ inter-community system.
Simpson said the T:GO inter-community system, which began in August, is the fifth municipal system in the area, with more coming shortly including Stratford and Lambton Shores.
His presentation prompted several questions from Tillsonburg councillors.
Coun. Chris Parker asked why there were only 167 online survey respondents, which Simpson said were had been consistently favourable to the north Oxford bus transit.
“One hundred and sixty-seven individuals out of a county of 110,000 is very minimal,” said Parker. “And to me suggests there is not much of an appetite for it.”
“We did the best we could in terms of the survey outreach,” said Simpson. “I do think a lot of people moved to social media away from submission of the dedicated surveys as their preferred method of communication. … We did the best we could with the virtual public meetings.”
“If people are relying on this to get back and forth from work, especially in the industrial areas, you’re only planning on running it three days a week,” said Parker. “What are the people who are relying on the bus system supposed to do on the other days?”
“The proposed bus system would only start off with three days a week in 2021,” said Simpson. “We wanted to start off small and continue to build marketing and branding at three days a week. I do agree that’s not optimal for workforce, but we are looking at that 2021 period as another period of time in which we can do further outreach with the businesses, at which time that service would increase in 2022 to the five days a week service.”
Parker noted Simpson did not mention in his presentation the county’s overall per capita cost.
“It did mention what the increase to the levy would be for each of the three (north) townships,” Parker said
“In terms of a general financial commitment per resident, you’d be looking at about 19 cents per resident, per year,” said Simpson. “I’m using the 2022 number. So there’d be a jump in that tax base increments to bring it to that level, then we fully intend to sustain it at that level going forward.”
Coun. Deb Gilvesy asked if all county partners are responsible for absorbing the costs if there is a revenue shortfall.
“Those would be subject to final details of the agreements,” said Simpson. “Certainly I don’t see why that would not be a collective sharing of that situation.
“I believe that’s a very nominal ridership basis that we’ve framed this model around.”
Gilvesy noted the revenue for the proposed transit system was based on ‘one rider per trip’ estimates.
Simpson said the number compares to Tillsonburg’s inter-community system. Lambton Shores had estimated four to five per trip, but Oxford wanted to be conservative with its estimate.
Longer term, Simpson said it would be feasible to merge the inter-community bus transit into a single county-wide system.
“I think your greatest operating efficiencies would be combining into one county-wide system, whether it’s run by the county or run by the area municipalities. I think it’s stronger if it’s a more integrated, single collective system.”
Coun. Pete Luciani noted that Simpson had mentioned free transfers between the north and south systems in the county’s proposal.
“That would not apply if you’re theoretically jumping onto the Woodstock local transit system,” Simpson noted. “Or the Tillsonburg local system.
“We really like the collective idea that we could strategically really move people a long distance by allowing that one free transfer… and really that’s what it’s all about. It’s to get people moving and connected and covering a lot of distance.”
The motion to receive the presentation ‘as information’ carried. But two councillors, Parker and Gilvesy, voted against it.