By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner
City buses to Huronia Road health services will be running sooner rather than later.
Barrie council has approved adjusting Barrie Transit routes to include 480 Huronia Rd., which houses the Barrie Community Health Centre (BCHC) and the Huronia Urgent Care Clinic.
It would begin May 6, but reduce service to the Pine Drive area —although that only affects six riders, five who are within easy walking distance of a remaining stop.
Coun. Arif Khan convinced a majority of council to make the change. “The impact is on the patients who need to utilize this service,” he said. “It’s important that we provide safe access.”
Mayor Jeff Lehman noted that Pine Drive’s bus service will improve dramatically in August, when the city’s new transit plan becomes reality. Council gave final approval to the new routes Monday. But some councillors weren’t happy with Khan’s last-minute changes to that plan.
Coun. Barry Ward said there is neither transparency nor accountability when such a change is made just before council approval.
“Maybe no one will object, but they won’t get the chance,” Ward said.
Coun. Doug Shipley agreed.
“The residents, for months, have seen what the (transit) routes will be,” he said. “There’s no recourse to come to us (council) with a deputation.”
Coun. John Brassard said August isn’t that far away.
“My tendency now is to wait,” he said, noting the change could be an item for discussion.
George Kaveckas, the city’s transit manager, said the new transit routes are scheduled to begin Aug. 17 and that changing this route would not come with a cost.
The No. 32 Bayview Route will be modified to provide transit service from Allandale Recreation Centre, along Little Avenue, Huronia Road to BCHC, Loon Avenue, Big Bay Point Road, Hurst Drive, Coxmill Road, Yonge Street and Little Avenue to Allandale Recreation Centre, and no longer service Pine Drive effective Monday, May 6.
Khan was not successful, however, in having city staff look at adding a bus stop at Huronia and Lockhart roads, and reporting back to councillors by May.
“I think there is a massive, gaping hole in the routes,” he said. “This is an isolated community. It’s a prime example of how not to plan a community.”
Khan said the hundreds of residents who live there — many are young families — have no sidewalks, are 1.5 kilometres from a bus stop and it’s not safe for people to walk.
But a majority of councillors said this was not the time to alter new bus routes that have been in the works for months, and that every part of Barrie could use more transit stops and better service.
“We all have problems in our wards and want to add routes and buses,” Coun. Peter Silveira said. “It opens up everyone at the (council) table to change the whole (transit) plan.”
“Give it a chance to roll out and see how things work,” Coun. Lynn Strachan said of the new bus routes.
Kaveckas said the change could also delay implementing Barrie’s new transit plan.
“Once you add on even a single stop, it has a ripple effect,” he said. “We would have to take service off elsewhere.”
But Couns. Bonnie Ainsworth and Alex Nuttall supported Khan’s motion, which was just to investigate the new stop.
“We can’t go back 10 years to review this decision and say it was the wrong place (for a residential subdivision),” Nuttall said. “But I don’t understand why we can’t look into it.”
But Shipley said if the motion passed, he would want to look into reduced bus service on Hanmer Street, in his ward.
Ward said there’s a part of his ward that hasn’t had transit service for 20 years and won’t be getting it in the new bus plan, either.
Lehman noted the Huronia/Lockhart stop would be a huge change to the bus schedule, while the stop at 480 Huronia Rd., is relatively minor.
In January, a BCHC official made a presentation to councillors about improved bus service there.
Barrie Transit modified the Saunders Road route to provide one-way peak bus service there last November — weekdays from 6-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m.
BCHC wanted all-day transit service instead, saying said 10% of the centre’s patients use transit to get there.
Barrie’s new bus system will serve multiple transit hubs, at major destinations, in different parts of the city. Routes will double up on major roads, so there will be 15-minute service on many of Barrie’s busiest streets, instead of the 30-minute service today.
The hubs will be at Georgian Mall, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, Georgian College, the current downtown bus station, Allandale Waterfront GO Station, Holly Community Centre, Park Place and South Barrie GO Station.
Barrie Transit’s existing 21 routes will be replaced with 10 more efficient ones.
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