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New Midland-Orillia bus route won't stop in Port McNicoll

'It was an arbitrary decision made by the county,' Tay councillor says. 'It just seems like Port McNicoll is an inconvenience. I just feel they dropped the ball on this.'
2020-09-03 LINX Transit MK
MidlandToday file photo

Simcoe County's decision to leave out Port McNicoll as a LINX route stop has Tay councillors upset.

At a recent committee meeting, Couns. Mary Warnock and Paul Raymond expressed frustration at the county's letter that informed the township that LINX route 6, Orillia to Midland, will be making stops in Waubaushene and Victoria Harbour, but avoiding Port McNicoll entirely.

"They're driving past a very populated area of our township," Warnock said in a conversation with MidlandToday. "It's kind of in the middle. Waverley is being serviced by another route. Port is the only one left out. It's concerning to us as that area doesn't have any grocery store or healthcare. They go to Midland for everything."

She said it's an essential and necessary service.

"(Port McNicoll residents) pay the same taxes as everybody else to the county," said Warnock. "From a point of view of the age-friendly plan, it all fits into it. For seniors to be able to live in their community, they need transportation."

Carol Collins, a senior who will be moving into the county's seniors housing in Victoria Harbour at the end of this year, is a user of the county's accessible service LINX Plus+. She hopes it will also be available to everyone who will occupy the new building on Maple Street.

But she said she understands how crucial the service is even for people who don't need accessible transit.

"There are a lot of people that can't get that," said Collins, who currently lives in Midland. "Having the LINX come in to Victoria Harbour would be great. I can't believe it's not a given considering there are 40 apartments going in there."

Port McNicoll residents overwhelmingly agree their neighbourhood should be included as a stop on the route.

"We need this for so many reasons," said Nadine Woods, of Port McNicoll. "We have a number of young people and seniors in Port McNicoll that don't have a driver's licence and would find it much easier to have other transportation that is affordable.

"We need to start including our smaller towns in the way we think about transportation and accessibility in our side towns," she added. "It is needed."

Mandy McPherson concurred with Woods.

"(It is) absolutely needed and necessary," said McPherson. "There are very few options here for those that don't have access to a personal vehicle, having public transit would be wonderful."

Warnock said she hopes the county will reconsider once the township sends a letter back expressing its dissatisfaction with the decision.

"I've had young people come up to me and say I just moved to Port McNicoll because it was affordable but I can't get to my job or school in Midland," she said. "That's a concern, too.

"In my mind, it's no dfferent than providing ridership for Penetanguishene. They went as far as that, so in my mind it's no different. If you're going to do the route, you can't leave an area out."

The county, meanwhile, says its study shows the Port McNicoll stop adds an extra 20 minutes to its 60-minute route loop with two buses going back and forth. And to keep the loop at that duration, it would have to add a third bus to the route, and that would incur a capital cost.

Both Warnock and Raymond disagree with that time duration assessment.

"They say Port McNicoll is going to add 20 minutes, it's not even 20 kms long," said Raymond. "Victoria Harbour has the most population and Port McNicoll is a close second and Waubaushene is third. I don't know how that translated to ridership numbers."

Unlike Victoria Harbour, he said, none of the necesseities of life are within walking distance for Port McNicoll residents.

"It entails a taxi ride or taking your own car," said Raymond. "It's hard to qualify how they arrived at leaving out Port McNicoll."

As well, the route proposed by the county takes the bus off Highway 12 and onto Talbot Street with a stop at Fourth Street.

Whereas Warnock said, "They could come in off Hwy 12, on Triple Bay Rd. and on Talbot St., then you take a left and go back on the highway. It's just a loop. I've driven that and it's 10 minutes tops."

Raymond said the county must have come up with the 20-minute, Port McNicoll stop on its own, since it didn't consult the township.

"It was an arbitrary decision made by the county," said Raymond. "It just seems like Port McNicoll is an inconvenience. I just feel they dropped the ball on this."

The County of Simcoe did not respond to comment requests around the issue in time for publication.