By Mike Williscraft
After a lengthy presentation regarding a proposed transit program for the Town of Grimsby, its Finance and Administration Committee opted Monday to recommend shelving any start up until 2019.
Uncertainty on direction, administrative structure and cost all played a key part in the decision, said committee chair, Ald. Carolyn Mullins.
Citing study findings that 84 per cent of residents support the notion of a transit system and 63 per cent confirming a tax increase of $20-$25 would be appropriate, Mullins said she does not know the “reality” of a $100-plus increase for transit would sit with taxpayers.
“I just don’t know how we would do it. The cost is enormous,” said Mullins.
“In the end, we agreed to seek more information on a one-bus system and that could be part of the 2019 budget.
Mullins added, with council starting its budget process looking at about a 34 per cent increase, considering any initiative for 2018 is not an option.
“Being an election year, we thought it was a good idea to put this matter in the hands of the new council,” said Mullins.
As well, Mullins noted that by standing pat, Grimsby will have an opportunity to see how things transpire with Town of Lincoln’s transit pilot which launched Monday.
“We would charge a fee,” said Mullins of Grimsby’s discussions on a possible fare, noting Lincoln opted to make the service free.
“A free service would create false expectations from the start. Then discussion of a toonie (would arise) and that wouldn’t offset much in the way of cost.”
Mullins said have a charge from the get-go is important to set the right tone.
“If we go forward, you (residents) are going to have to pay to ride the bus,” said Mullins.
There were also questions of who would administer the service, noting that staff are currently “overworked”, so taking on a transit service would mean “more staff, once again.”
As well, there is also some detail to be ironed out regarding what Niagara Region’s connection to Grimsby will look like.
Uber could also play a part – as it has in Innisfil north of Toronto with success – in helping create a successful, efficient model.
“There was a lot of information Monday and, yikes, it would be nice to have public transit, but how can we pay for it,” said Mullins.
The Finance committee recommendation will come to council next Monday, Nov. 20 for approval.