Rural residents finally have access to transit system
Port Colborne Leader
Sunday, December 26, 2021
Nobody wants to feel like a burden, but when Tom Slow has to board the community bus in Port Colborne with his wheelchair, that’s exactly how he feels.
“It always seems like the driver is annoyed they have to do something extra,” said Slow, who has relied on the community bus for years in order to get around the city. “Then, once I get on the bus, people sort of have to move out of the way and shift around to make room. It makes me feel like I’m a burden on people as they try to use the bus.”
With the community bus shutting down, Slow was initially apprehensive about what would happen, but after meeting with staff from the region and discussing how the new NRT OnDemand system will work, he’s now excited about the prospect of an entirely new transit model coming to Port Colborne.
“This is going to be great,” said Slow as he checked out one of the NRT OnDemand vans which was parked outside city hall Dec. 10 to spread awareness of the transit changeover. At the event, Slow was able to speak with regional representatives about how the new system will work for those with accessibility needs.
According to regional staff, 40 per cent of the new NRT OnDemand fleet of vehicles are wheelchair accessible. When booking his trip, Slow simply needs to click the button at the bottom of the app saying he wants to be picked up by one of the accessible vans, and the NRT OnDemand app does the rest.
“For me, this is going to be a lot better than the system we have now,” said Slow. “And it’s not just me, there are actually quite a few people in Port Colborne who use a wheelchair, and this is going to be an improvement for all of us.”
The traditional community stopped running at the end of 2021, and was replaced in the new year by the on-demand system. Riders are able to book trips in real time by using the NRT OnDemand mobile app, or by calling 289-302-2172, and selecting a pickup and drop-off location within the service zone. Anyone who lacks access to a smartphone is able to purchase transit passes at Port Colborne City Hall and Vale Health and Wellness Centre.
Financially, the change has no impact on city hall, as the new system and the old system are costing local taxpayers the same amount. The new transit system is not only more accommodating for those will accessibility needs, but for the first time ever, the entirety of Port Colborne is now covered by the transit system. That means transit riders young, old, and differently abled all now have access to transit.
“That’s the biggest thing for me, the fact that it’s no longer just a closed loop around the city’s core, but instead covers our entire community,” said the city’s chief administrative officer, Scott Luey. “That means if you are a kid living in Sherkston, and you’ve got a job working downtown, you no longer have to bug mom for a ride into the city, you can use this on-demand service. If you are a senior citizen and live out near our border with Wainfleet, you can easily get to a medical appointment here in the city. That’s never been an option in Port Colborne before, so this is a big change.”
NRT OnDemand will operate in the city Monday to Saturday between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Fares are $3 per local trip, and $6 for intermunicipal trips. Face masks are mandatory for all riders.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY
This week the Port Colborne Leader decided to look at how the transit change will impact the city’s vulnerable residents.
James Culic is an Ottawa-expat, reporting the news around Niagara’s southern tier. He also writes a weekly opinion column which people seem to love to hate-read.