Opinion

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- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

Transportation to and around the Bruce Peninsula, from Owen Sound to Sauble Beach and back – these have been dreams for more than a decade. And it looks like someone has stepped forward with a magic wand – and a bus.

But businesses are more than good ideas. Licences, permits, insurance and plans are as important as the hardware and the Facebook page. As Uber and Greyhound and dozens of others have found, transportation is a business fraught with logistical challenges.

All of us at the Owen Sound Hub are as keen as anyone on the idea of peninsula transportation. But we've been around the block a few times ourselves, and I think we understand the pot holes fairly well.

As long as the new venture is outside the city boundaries – we'd expect our city staff and council to nod and applaud, noting that anything that brings better access for residents and visitors is a plus for Owen Sound. Inside the city imits,  the City has a contract with First Transit to operate the publicly funded bus system that carries people around town. Beyond the fares, Owen Sound residents and businesses fund that system, including the maintenance of bus stops and the terminal, with their tax dollars. I have been watching this for years now, and I recognize that creating, reviewing and contracting that public transit system and the accompanying specialized transit is a complex and frankly expensive process.

The operator of the new Bruce Peninsula Transit, Jeff Leonard, does not appear to be so big on process. He prefers phone calls and emails, and in a late-night exchange of the latter with OwenSoundHub.org, he was pretty blunt in his words about the City. Leonard claims his attempts to contact the City in February were ignored, but felt in May he was given reassurances by City staff that he says have since been contradicted by City Manager Wayne Ritchie.

Leonard says "All I want is to drop passengers off in the downtown core. I just figured this would be best accomplished by using existing stops. I also offered to put my own stop up." He also mentions proposed stops across from Georgian College and the hospice, in addition to current stops at the mall, WalMart and the hospital. Frustrated by the response he feels he is getting, Leonard states "I will from now on stop wherever someone wants on or off", stating that the City has "no right interfering" with his business.

Leonard claims that the City Manager said "that I could not, I repeat could not, operate in the city of Owen Sound".

Ritchie told OwenSoundHub.org that he has had two phone calls with Leonard, and on both occasions he asked the operator to make a written proposal to Council. This is standard operating procedure, and from where I sit, I'd expect the Council to either refer the proposal to the Operations Committee or ask for a staff report on the implications for the City – both the benefits and any potential risks or costs. That's their job.

Ritchie has a favourite simile about city decision-making. "It's like a balloon – if you push your finger in one side, inevitably it will push out somewhere else. We need to carefully consider all the possible consequences – intended or otherwise." Sounds reasonable to me.

Tour buses, charters, Saugeen Mobility and the Grey Bruce AirBus operate within Owen Sound without any apparent friction. Some are part of a Grey County plan to improve regional transportation, others are private businesses delivering visitors and residents to and from specific locations.

Leonard asked me if I would like to be in the room when he meets with mayor Ian Boddy next week.
I can assure you that if the invitation still stands, nothing would delight me more.

photo courtesy of 92.3TheDock

 

 

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