There’s no move to change to the previous fixed route system but at the recent Council meeting, Councillor Adam Bureau pushed strongly to have a hybrid transit system – at least until enough buses could be deployed. Adam said that currently there are 2 buses when there should be 5 (see below for more detail) and that as an interim measure, one bus should operate on a fixed route with two continuing with on-demand service. Other councillors were not convinced and pointed to a number of problems. Funding for the extra bus would come out of reserves intended to pay for new buses but Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty said that this would go against Council’s goal of setting aside money for Capital expenditures.
Normally a “Notice of Motion” like the one Adam proposed would mean a discussion at a later meeting but Adam wanted an immediate decision so asked for a “suspension for the rules of order”. This required a two thirds majority vote and since Councillor Barber was absent, this meant a vote of 4 in favour. The vote was taken and passed so a decision could be made in the current meeting.
The debate was long but it’s possible to list the concerns with the proposal:
- Currently, 2 small town owned buses provide fully accessible on-demand service and there is one school bus used as well – but although nominally also accessible, it’s not good in that respect so is not used for “wheels” applications. New small buses are not expected to be delivered until mid 2024.
- One of the major problems at the moment is getting enough drivers. Driver shortages also explains the unhappiness with the current system. Only yesterday (May 25) the Town announced that because of a driver shortage, Transit service would end at 7:45 pm instead of the usual 9:00 pm.
- Although Adam pointed to a large number of complaints, Mayor Lucas Cleveland said that the complaint level has reduced significantly. So how many people are actually affected? Adam responded that many have given up and now take taxis.
- The previous fixed route system had 2 routes and did not cover some Areas (e.g. New Amherst). One bus on a fixed route system would have to focus on “hot-spots” like the Mall, Downtown and retirement centres. It may not run everyday and could not do all that people would expect.
- Buying a new bus would take some time – Staff are currently working on writing an RFP document – it would specify small buses and would suit the on-demand system but would not be issued until after the budget sessions expected in 3 months. Delivery would be mid 2024.
- Although usage is 20% higher, actual rider numbers were not available.
- The cost of adopting the proposed system would be $70K (in this year?) and the money would come from Transit reserves – intended for capital purchases. As noted above, Nicole was not happy with this idea.
Mayor Cleveland said that the basic problem was transportation and wanted a different approach.
He moved that Council refer the decisions on a hybrid system until 2024 budget deliberations but meanwhile that staff should expedite preparation of a by-law on “Vehicles for Hire, ridesharing and Taxi Licensing” to make more transportation available in Cobourg. Also that the Town should “engage with Northumberland County on discussions on the expansion of Commuter Connect with the Town of Cobourg and County Wide” [That’s the plan to setup a bus service connecting Northumberland communities – could it have more than one stop in Cobourg?].
His motion passed.
Then in a recorded vote, Council voted 4-2 against Adam’s hybrid plan. Only Miriam supported Adam’s idea.
- Northumberland County Pilot Bus Services – “Commuter Connect” 14 Sept 2022
- More Transit Discussion at Council – 17 January 2023