Report: Call for province to subsidize busing in Northwest

Common Voice Northwest Executive Director Iain Angus described a new report recommending provincial assistance for stable, consistent bus service throughout Northwest Ontario.                Photo by Chris Marchand

Common Voice Northwest Executive Director Iain Angus described a new report recommending provincial assistance for stable, consistent bus service throughout Northwest Ontario. Photo by Chris Marchand

Lack of service exacerbating non-emergent ambulance costs

By Chris Marchand

A regional transportation working group is making the case that the province should help pay to stabilize inter-city bus service in Northwestern Ontario.

Iain Angus, Executive Director of Common Voice Northwest, says a recent transportation task force working group has concluded that the province could provide a basic level of daily service to the region’s communities for $3.24 million per year.

In a recent report, titled ‘The Future of Inter Community Bus Service in Northwestern Ontario’ the working group points out that subsidizing transportation is not foreign concept for the Province of Ontario. Ontario provides $161 million in annual subsidies for GTA transportation provider Metrolinx. In the Northeast, the province funds Ontario Northland rail and bus service to the tune of $11 million per year.

Busing service between communities has proven closely interconnected with access to health services.

Angus says that municipalities and the province are already subsidizing travel through non-emergent ambulance trips between communities. Drawing important emergency response resources far away from communities, non-emergent ambulance calls have been a long-standing problem for area district services boards.

“We figure there’s probably around 500 trips per year on our ambulances where people could have gone by bus, if the bus was there,” said Angus. “These are trips that do not require a medical attendant of any kind — they don’t have to be horizontal on a stretcher. Although this would not be a savings per say, it certainly would present a higher level of service to our smaller communities when that ambulance leaves for a non-emergent reason and leaves that community without an ambulance in the case of a real emergency.”

The report suggests a few different options for funding including a direct subsidy between the Ministry of Transportation and the region’s three bus carriers (Greyhound, Caribou and Kasper); letting area physicians, hospitals or DSABs distribute transportation vouchers in lieu of ordering an ambulance for non-emergent travel; or offering a fuel tax exemption or refund to compensate the carriers.

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