The Enterprise-Bulletin recently published a letter from Collingwood resident Rick Barrett slamming the town's latest public transit initiative. I am not about to get into Mr. Barrett's mathematics as without knowing the essential facts regarding the number of riders using the system and whether the ridership is based on a per head or per trip basis, it's hard to be critical. Further, the whole system itself is relatively new and like anything, wide-spread adoption does not happen over night.
Yes Collingwood has had a so-called public transit "system" in the past. A system that featured buses incapable of transporting the physically challenged. A system with a haphazard route system and with bus stops that for the most part were poorly identified and as such unknown to potential users.
The latest reincarnation of COLLTRANS is the most serious attempt the municipality has made yet at providing a public transit system that just might in time, work. Who said anything about it making money or even breaking even? Unlike in Europe where mass transit both of an urban nature and more importantly country-wide via train has been embraced for decades, I doubt there are many such systems in other countries where the ridership sustains the system financially through their fares. One need look no further than Toronto where the multi-billion dollar Sheppard subway line draws scarcely 40,000 riders daily when the balance of the TTC sees over 1 million riders a day. Or what about Barrie's new GO Train service? I suspect running four trains to Barrie daily is hardly going to pay for itself in the short-term but the alternative is to ignore the need of Toronto commuters and see highway 400 converted into a parking lot.
With user friendly buses for persons of all types, a redefined route system, bus stops that for the first time are well marked, and efficient bio-diesel equipped buses, COLLTRANS is approaching becoming a legitimate public transit system that will over time, continue to draw new riders. I would suggest that Collingwood and the Town of the Blue Mountains get together and talk about expanding the service to Blue Mountain and the Intrawest Village. Doing so might not only increase ridership and yes operating costs, but would also help to attract Blue Mountain visitors and guests to the downtown core.
For years the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) was affectionately referred to as "Take The Car" and look what it got them. A city with an inefficient road system lagging years behind its growth and near the point of paralysis. Collingwood's traffic woes are only destined to get worse. Due largely to the absence of a center left turn lane, First Street is fast becoming a source of perpeptual gridlock and boosts an accident rate well above the provincial norm. As the driver of a V8 powered SUV I am by no means a tree-hugging environmentalist but I acknowledge that we must adopt a "greener" way of thinking and that costs money. Whether for individuals or organizations such as municipalities going "green" ever pays for itself much less turns a profit is questionable and immaterial. Mathematics aside, its simply something we all must do in order to sustain the environment and accompanying lifestyle as we know it.