With over 15,000 residents, it’s hard to believe there’s not a bus stop to be found in Greater Napanee, but that could all change pending a decision at the next meeting of Town Council.
At its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023, councillors for the Town of Greater Napanee will receive a report regarding a proposed partnership with Deseronto Transit – a report that requires a decision from Council the same night. Prepared by Annie Manion, Manager of Community Economic Development for Greater Napanee, the report recommends that Council authorize a partnership between the Town of Greater Napanee and the Town of Deseronto (and, more specifically, Deseronto Transit) to “provide a coordinated transportation service that will benefit both municipalities.”
The report also recommends that Council authorize Town staff to submit a proposal to Lennox and Addington County that “would commit the Town of Greater Napanee and the Town of Deseronto to provide a service generally described within the proposed transportation project.”
According to the report, the proposal stems from an earlier report originally brought to Napanee Council in December 2021. That report, however, outlined a joint transportation project with Loyalist Township. That original report included a survey, which ran from October 28 to November 26, 2021, which yielded a total of 242 responses, the current report indicates, noting that 90 per cent of survey respondents were full-time residents of Greater Napanee – 67 per cent of whom indicated they resided in the “urban area” of the Town. Nearly half of the survey respondents (43 per cent) were aged 55+, the report notes.
“Since the original report, Loyalist Township has moved towards their own transportation project, while the Town of Greater Napanee have reviewed the survey results and discussed options with Deseronto Transit, our existing transportation provider,” the report reads.
(You can find information on Loyalist’s accessible transportation partnership with the Kingston Area Taxi Commission here, and information on the rural transit study for Loyalist, Kingston, South Frontenac, and Gananoque here.)
“Staff have met with Deseronto Transit representatives on multiple occasions to discuss ridership, on demand services versus fixed routes, and opportunities to expand and promote their existing in-town service,” the report continues.
Those meetings have seemingly resolved to opt for fixed routes, as the report further outlines that fixed routes would operate from 4:45 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“Stops in Greater Napanee include Lennox & Addington [County] General Hospital, Baker & West Street, Market Square, Camden Variety, No Frills, and Wal-Mart,” the report details.
“These stops are along the proposed fixed route. Staff will monitor other potential stops as the route becomes established.”
In terms of financial implications, the report indicates that “grant funding to initiate a public transportation system is available through Lennox and Addington County.”
“Lennox and Addington County has requested that a proposal be submitted detailing how funding will be utilized to implement a sustainable transportation service within the timelines as detailed within their agreement with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO),” it reads, noting that $93,000 in funding is available for 2023 to 2024, and then another $93,000 for 2024 to March 31, 2025.
“The proposal will be subject to Lennox and Addington County and MTO approval.”
The report goes on to say that the current Deseronto Transit has been operational for the past 14 years, “largely servicing the Greater Napanee area,” and that the funding model for the service has been “based on gas tax funds” from Greater Napanee, Tyendinaga Township, and the Town of Deseronto.
“The service has an operational budget of approximately $308,000. Due to fares collected and gas tax this service has been largely cost neutral,” the report states.
Outlining that a public engagement and communication plan/strategy will be developed to inform residents about the project, bus routes, schedules, and the “change from on demand services,” the report points to three of Council’s Strategic Priorities being advanced through the proposed partnership and service: Fostering economic growth, promoting a healthy and safe community, and facilitating a green and sustainable environment.
“There are many socio-economic benefits to providing public transportation including access to essential services, employment, skills training, and social networking for non-drivers. Fifty-two per cent of the original survey respondents stated they would use public transit because they did not have access to a vehicle. Eighty per cent stated the main reason they would use public transit would be for essential errands like grocery shopping, the next highest answer at 59 per cent was for medical appointments,” the report says of the impact the proposal would have on the community.
“A higher quality of life, including improved health and community participation rates is another added benefit. People that use public transit walk more, which reduces the risks of being overweight and having hypertension, disabilities, and heart disease. Seventy-three per cent of those that responded to the survey said an active transportation network, such as walking trails or bike paths, should be incorporated into the design of a transit system, and 80 per cent of [those surveyed] rated walking as the most likely form of active transportation they would use,” it continues.
“There is also reduced roadway congestion, vehicle emissions, and their associated environmental and health impacts when public transportation is being utilized.”
According to the report, Deseronto Transit plans to move into fixed stops service (as opposed to on demand) as of September 5, 2023.
The full report, which includes further graphics, is available on the Town of Greater Napanee’s CivicWeb page, along with the full agenda for the meeting taking place on Tuesday. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Napanee Town Hall, and can be streamed live (or viewed afterwards) on the Town of Greater Napanee YouTube channel.