THUNDER BAY, ON --- February 9, 2016 --- Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario leaders are calling on the Government of Ontario to implement an inter-community bus system designed to connect all of the communities in the region to each other and to provide sufficient funding to ensure that it is sustainable.
A report commissioned by Common Voice Northwest and endorsed by the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association and the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce analyses the existing bus system in the region, identifies the gaps and makes the case for an enhanced service that will ensure travellers from both the western and eastern parts of the region can reach the regional hub of Thunder Bay in a timely manner each day, do their business and return home that same evening. The report was released to the public at the Kenora District Municipal Association on Feb 5, 2016.
This proposed 7day a week scheduled service is projected to cost in the range of $4 million annually. The report notes that provincial and federal ministries are already contributing to the moving of people between communities. Ontario Works, health travel grants, EMS ambulances transporting patients who could take the bus and other agencies are already providing a service, paid for primarily by the province. The report recommends that agencies would issue transportation certificates that would be redeemed with the appropriate bus company with those companies reimbursed by the Province.
The mainline service would cover Highway 11 from Fort Frances to Longlac, while the Highway 17 corridor would start at Marathon and end in Winnipeg. Feeder lines would be established to connect to the highway services to serve communities such as Rainy River and Manitouwadge, Nakina, Armstrong, Sioux Lookout, Pickle Lake, Ear Falls and Red Lake. Existing providers such as Greyhound, Caribou and Kasper would be incorporated into the system and encouraged to expand to meet the overall needs of the region.
The report analysed what occurs in other Provinces as well as identifying current levels of subsidy by the Ontario Government in Northeastern Ontario and in the Golden Horseshoe. Metrolinx operates or funds both inter-city and intra-city services in the Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area (GTHA) . The Metrolinx financial report for 2013/14 indicates that the organization received $161.4 million from the Province of Ontario. An operating subsidy of $106.4 million was attributed directly to GO services.
The Ontario Northland Transportation Commission operates both rail and bus service in the Northeast of Ontario. The total allocation from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines under the heading “Cash deficiency and other” is the amount of $11 million for 2014 with ONTC receiving $29,749,000 the year before.
The CVNW initiative is part of their ongoing monitoring and review of the Province’s Multi-Modal Transportation Strategy being developed as part of the Northern Growth Plan by the Ministry of Transportation.
A copy of the report has been filed with MTO and municipalities and Chambers across the Northwest are being asked to endorse it and to encourage the Province to implement it as soon as possible. A copy can be requested from firstname.lastname@example.org.