With cramped quarters and no exit doors near the rear of the buses to keep passengers distant from drivers, is it safe to ride St. Thomas Transit in these far-from-normal times? Well, it appears this week much attention is being paid to the safety of passengers and drivers. But what about the situation over the last month when the transit system was operating a regular service while others in the province had shut down or substantially reduced hours. And, larger operators with full-sized transit buses could take the front door out of service and have passengers enter and exit the vehicles through the rear door, well away from drivers. With the city’s fleet of what can only be described as glorified airport parking shuttle buses, the above is not an option.
The city’s much-maligned transit system may very well become a greatly relied upon people mover if council endorses the recommendations of the soon-to-be-released Strategic Transit Plan. The proposed changes would involve route and schedule adjustments, the introduction of demand-responsive transit (DRT), the possibility of larger buses and electric bus technology and a pilot project to explore regional bus service. At Monday’s (Nov. 18) reference committee meeting, Brian Putre of Stantec Consulting and city engineer Justin Lawrence presented an overview of recommendations to members of city council. The plan, which is 95 per cent complete, drew favourable comments from all of council, including the stark observation from Coun. Joan Rymal that “any change is better than what we have now.”
Transit was a prominent talking point leading up to last year’s municipal vote and now, thanks to provincial funding, city residents may soon be standing at a bus stop of “a transit system we can all be proud of.”
At an announcement Thursday (Aug. 8) in front of city hall, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek indicated the provincial government is committing $1.8 million for transit projects in St. Thomas.
The money will be used for fleet upgrades – including the purchase of 10 new buses with an additional four vehicles for future expansion – and transit technology, including priority signalling for buses at designated intersections.
In addition, the transit projects are being nominated for federal funding under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), a $30 billion, 10-year infrastructure initiative cost-shared between federal, provincial and municipal governments.
With just 99 days until the federal election, you might very well be wondering who the Liberal party has tasked with attempting to unseat incumbent Karen Vecchio in Elgin-Middlesex-London (EML) riding. Well, the short answer is no one. The nomination meeting was originally scheduled for January and here we are midway through July with no designated candidate although we know Lori Baldwin-Sands has filed papers. Will she be acclaimed at some point in the very near future? A phone call to David Goodwin of the federal Liberal riding association should result in some answers. “They haven’t called the nomination yet,” advised Goodwin.
For those who rely on St. Thomas Transit, change may be a passenger in the coming year. The transit contract with Voyageur – originally in effect Jan. 1, 2012 – expires at the end of the year and the city has the option to enter into a three-year extension. The transit system was up for discussion at council’s Nov. 20 reference committee meeting at city hall, where the director of environmental services, Justin Lawrence, brought mayor and council up to speed on the five-route system. In 1989 the hub and spoke system operated with traditional transit buses on a 45-minute cycle over a 14-hour day, Monday through Saturday. Today, the same hub and spoke system operates 11.5 hours per day (except Sunday) on a 30-minute cycle utilizing buses not far removed from RV’s that struggle to remain in one piece over what appears to be a five-year life span. Continue reading →
Friday’s announcement of the proposed merger of Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and Oxford County Public Health – which aligns with the province’s call for fewer health units with autonomous boards – is, no doubt, intended to create efficiencies. Such is the desired effect of any merger, no matter the business sector. To quote the media release, the two health units “began exploring a potential merger as a way of working towards a strong, unified rural voice for public health in Ontario.” To further quote from the release, “The intent to merge was formalized through a letter of intent signed by Oxford County Warden David Mayberry on November 8 and Elgin St. Thomas Board of Health Chair Bernie Wiehle on November 9. The letter of intent commits both organizations to a review of each other’s finances, operations and assets; to equally sharing any costs associated with the merger; and to pursuing the necessary statutory and regulatory change at the provincial level before the merger becomes official.” Continue reading →
They deal with some of the most vulnerable members of the community, but staff at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association say they are struggling with their own unbearable stress. And now, members of OPSEU Local 133 are breaking the silence. Bolstered by CMHA members from Oxford, about two dozen staff took a stand outside the Centre Street office where they claim to be working in an environment of fear, intimidation and anxiety. According to Carol Warner, OPSEU staff representative, St. Thomas employees are consistently targeted and penalized by upper management for speaking up about health, safety and other workplace concerns. “It’s hideous, it’s a long-standing issue,” notes Warner. “I would say it’s a systemic issue. We have grievances in the docket that are, at a minimum, four or five years old. And the grievance program has flaws as well. “If one decides to, they can influence how quickly or how slowly the grievance process unfolds.” Continue reading →
What lies ahead for the Alma College property might very well come into sharper focus this fall. London developer Gino Reale is optimistic such is the case. Speaking to him from his home Friday, Reale was upbeat. “There have been a lot of positive discussions. We’re getting close to some resolutions. But nothing has been inked.” While he was unable to reveal details at this time, Reale said discussions are underway with a group on the possibility of constructing a small recreation centre on the Moore Street property geared to seniors. Part of the green space could be utilized for a community garden, suggested Reale.Continue reading →
With a 322-page agenda plus several deputations and presentations to deal with, members of council won’t be putting the wraps on Monday’s council meeting in 45 minutes or less, as is often the case. Especially if they do what they are paid to do and represent St. Thomas ratepayers. Forget lobbing softballs and ask the tough questions. Forget the platitudes to staff about a job well done on this report or that. Of course the report is exceptional, that’s the job of staff at city hall and they do it well. Start probing. For instance, how about the city’s consolidated financial report for 2016. We’ll point you in the right direction at Page 275.Continue reading →