Lambton County seeking funding to explore offering rural transportation

Lambton County council has decided to take another look at how it might provide more transportation options for residents in its rural communities.

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Council voted Wednesday to seek up to $50,000 in federal funding to help pay for a consultant to gauge demand for a rural, inter-community transportation system, explore its feasibility and come up with options for how it might work.

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Such a study could cost as much as $150,000, the county said.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley told county council this week that while “I’m not excited about spending more money on this, I think it’s time we do something substantial.”

County council has heard from communities wanting better access to transportation, “so I think it’s time we take that leap of faith,” Bradley said.

Warwick Township Mayor Todd Case initially raised the idea of ​​a new look at the issue back in the summer when he asked senior staff to dust off past reports on the potential for a rural transit system in Lambton.

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“Getting people from place to place is important and it is a struggle in rural communities,” Case said then.

For those without a vehicle, that struggle includes getting to medical appointments, classes at Lambton College and jobs, he said.

Lambton looked at the potential for rural systems in 2016 and 2017, but decided against moving ahead.

In November, council heard from Huron Shores Area Transit’s co-ordinator about its service linking Grand Bend and nearby communities to Sarnia, and its other routes to London, Goderich and Strathroy.

This service, managed by Lambton Shores in partnership with neighboring communities, is funded through an Ontario Community Transportation grant program.

There may be opportunities to expand that service to other parts of Lambton, but more funding would be needed, the county said.

“We really have to lobby the provincial government to provide some funding to at least put a test project in place,” Case said previously. “Perhaps we can try it here in Lambton for a year or two, with some provincial funding.”

A county staff report noted Sarnia is part of a provincially funded daily transit service connecting the city with Strathroy and London.

And private operators Intercity and FlixBus recently began offering bus service from Sarnia to Strathroy, London and Toronto.

“There may be solutions out there,” Bradley said.

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