By Lynda Powless
SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND – Six Nations could see a mini-van styled public transit system available on an on-call basis, a public transit system survey indicates.
Six Nations has been exploring the idea of a public transportation system for the community since October, 2022.
Community members heard possible options from Dillion Consulting Ltd., Friday, March 10, at both a public meeting at Six Nations’ community hall and online.
The survey said Six Nations needs the ability to improve access to the community at-large along with access to programs, housing, various services, jobs, health care and that would allow youth to attend after school activities while providing community safety.
The community was told without a transit system communities suffer from a loss of accessibility, health care and safety and are unable to make doctor appointments among others.
Dennis Kar, project manager, said a lack of public transit can impact social health and lead to long term care facility increases and adds to the dangers of hitchhiking.
It affects employment ability with no transportation available to the workforce.
Surveys were distributed throughout the community with 810 surveys completed, with the majority of those already having access to a vehicle.
Kar said the surveys showed a lot of support for a public transit system with 77 per cent saying they would use, or were likely to use it.
He said they heard about the need even though “only 16% of the respondents don’t have access to a vehicle, about 37% of those respondents had difficulty completing a trip within the last six months because they may not have access to the vehicle at the point in time they needed to travel.”
Kar said that the results show the majority of responders would use transit more for activities like shopping, versus needs such as travelling to work, school, or medical appointments.
“Overall we did find out that the majority of respondents identified that they would use transit for more discretionary trips,” he said.
He outlined what a system could look like at Six Nations based on what the majority said they would use it for, more discretionary trips, such as grocery shopping, health appointments and visiting.
Survey responders said they found transport now without public transit difficult especially when travelling with a child, or expensive with having to pay for taxi cabs.
Community members also reported missing work and medical appointments and talked about how walking and bicycling on reserve has become more dangerous over the years.
The top three trips he said were groceries, health and work.
Within Six Nations, he said the survey showed people would use public transit to travel to: Ohsweken, the pharmacy, ILA and Six Nations Parks and Recreation facilities.
Outside the community the most popular spots were Brantford, Lynden Park Mall, the Brantford mall
He said they would add the Brantford bus station and possibly Brantford General Hospital and the Brantford Farmers Market as stops.
In Hamilton he said they would stop at the Ancaster Walmart and Hamilton’s Limeride Mall.
He said about 43% of those responding said they would use it at least three times a week.
He said responses to what was important in a service he said was cost, close proximity and access outside Six Nations, safety.
He said in designing a service they looked at different models.
While only 10 people turned out to the inperson version at the community hall, one woman said she was glad to see it would cater to employment.
Another said she expected once it is up and running it will become more popular as a result of the economy.
Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) Councillor Michelle Bomberry asked about whether the researchers had liaised with schools including secondary schools.
The surveys, they said found at least one high school, Assumption College, students responded positively to the usage said Stephanie Burnham engagement lead.
Burnham said they were able to engage with a guidance counsellor at a secondary school they did get response from area colleges and Six Nations Polytech where students said they would use the system.
Councillor Bomberry pointed out that transportation is a need for
post-secondary students, who would be an important group to engage with.
Some community members were more optimistic transit study but said the plan will need work.
“Everything is worth exploring even more. You’ll never come up with something that’s right for everybody, because of unique needs…just start off and build,” one community member said,
Kar said transit systems fill a mobility void, in particular, in rural areas.
He said the recommendation they are looking is an on-demand service.
He said the results showed ridership would start off slow but building as popularity is known.
He said while a public transit system operates every 30 to 60 minutes, an on-demand service, as recommended here, could see a wait of one to two hours, with no weekend service, and usually only when demand is at its greatest.
Six Nations, he said could see converted mini vans buses on two to four routes convening at a central hub.
But he said ridership costs are usually recovered from 10-20 per cent through passenger fares. That, he said would mean Six Nations would require an alternate source of funding.
He said a primary recommendation is a local service within Six Nations with an on-demand transit service operating Monday to Saturday with one or two vehicles and average booking times.
Intercommunity service could see a fixed schedule service to Brantford and Hamilton that would operate with one vehicle one to two days a week to Hamilton and Brantford accommodating discretionary trips such as shopping .
On-demand, he said, is flexible, based on customer demand on call in or using a mobile app.
Technology he said will allow people to track where the vehicle is in real time and when you can be picked up as a shared ride.
He said wait time may be reduced by booking in advance.
He said with limited sidewalks at Six Nations it would be curb to curb service.
He said 55% of survey respondents preferred on demand and over 70 per cent said they would travel between 5 and 6 p.m. and less than four days a week on the local service.
Intercommunity service, he said would be open two days a week to Brantford or Hamilton operating every 70-90 minutes to the two cities.
Kar said the plan will be adjusted according to feedback before working on an implementation plan, and submitting their report to SNEC.
“After hearing some of your input, we’re going to make some adjustments to the plan. So anything that we have here is not set in stone. This is all set for feedback and to understand how we captured what you were looking for. And finally it’s to develop an implementation plan and report and present it to Council.” (With files from Lisa Iesse)