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Two more Orillia Transit buses will be purchased with windfall

Mehreen Shahid

By Mehreen Shahid, Special to the Packet & Times

The Orillia Transit north bus is pictured turning on to Fittons Road West from West Street North.

MEHREEN SHAHID/THE PACKET & TIMES The Orillia Transit north bus is pictured turning on to Fittons Road West from West Street North.

The wheels keep turning on Orillia’s transit expansion, with $1.25 million in funding coming in for two additional buses this year.

With $1.4 million already approved in the transit budget last year, the city was able to buy three more buses. This additional cash from the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, announced Friday, will help the city add two more buses.

“The original budget approval was for three buses,” said Mayor Steve Clarke. “We have an aging fleet of buses. We would have liked to have replaced more than three, but that’s a significant financial consideration, so we had to put it off. This will allow us not to have to do that.”

All new buses offer full accessibility by kneeling or lowering to assist with boarding, as well as offering a ramp for wheelchairs.

“Part of the funding was to be able to make the buses fully accessible and, also, they have GPS on them to allow us to monitor them in real time,” Clarke said, referring to the information available through the free mobile app called Pingstreet. “The users will be able to know exactly where they are.”

The buses are also equipped with GPS driver display units that assist in keeping buses on schedule and improving overall service. The buses will provide seating for 35 people, and all buses will be equipped with an automatic visual and auditory stop-announcement system to assist all passengers, including those with related disabilities.

“I think this is probably the biggest year for transit in a long time,” Clarke said. “I’m led to believe that for a city our size, we actually have a pretty comprehensive transit system. Some may not agree with that, but that’s the understanding from my offices. And whatever we can do to improve that makes sense, and I’m all for it. And that’s what this year’s all about.”

For further improvements to the system, he said, council will look to the transit study expected in the next couple of months.

One of the recommendations is expected to be altering or adding routes, “which will be a budget consideration to be looked at the fall,” said Clarke.

Also, staff is expected to report to council next month about improvements to accessibility at all bus stops.

“They looked at the routes and have identified 30 to 35 bus stops they can move a number of feet, near where they are, but in line where the plows go so they have full accessibility,” said Clarke. “I believe that program has been initiated.”

The transit contract is up for renewal in June.

“We take into consideration, everything,” he said. “The RFP (request for proposals) will identify service-rate levels and expectations. When the responses come in, we’ll have to consider all aspects ... And what are these companies going to do to maximize customer satisfaction?”

Clarke hopes talks about a central transit hub will also begin later this year.

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