Waterloo Region Record

Kitchener transit pilot project getting reviewed

Alternativ­e service ‘wonderful addition’ for patients travelling to Freeport hospital, taking them to door

- Jweidner@therecord.com Twitter: @WeidnerRec­ord JOHANNA WEIDNER

KITCHENER — A Grand River Transit pilot project in Kitchener will get another look before it’s discontinu­ed at the end of the year.

Region of Waterloo staff were directed to explore alternativ­es for the 901 Flex Trinity-Freeport route, which travels between Trinity Village and Grand River Hospital’s Freeport campus with a few stops along the way.

“At the Freeport end, there’s a lot more potential use,” said Coun. Tom Galloway, who put forward the motion to send it back to staff to explore alternativ­es at the last council meeting. “The doctors and staff there would really like to see us have a regular service.”

Four doctors at Freeport sent a letter to council asking it to continue the service, saying it was a “wonderful addition” at the hospital, which is the second largest in the region providing a range of in-patient and outpatient care.

Coun. Sue Foxton also urged council to reconsider for the sake of the many Freeport patients who are disabled and depend on public transporta­tion.

“The Flex takes them to the door. The normal bus drops them at the road. Most of their clients are in severe rehab because of stroke, heart, amputation­s, many are in wheelchair­s,” Foxton said. “The need is essential.”

The regular bus stop on King Street is quite a distance and downhill from Freeport’s front entrance, and another at the back of the property on Morrison Road is a long, steep sidewalk away. For people using a wheelchair or other mobility aid, that’s a huge hurdle.

MobilityPl­us is available, but the service is busy and time slots can be limited. Regular buses don’t have enough room in front of Freeport to turn.

Galloway said there is a demand the region should try to meet. “There’s enough ridership. Now it’s just how do we do it?”

As for the other end at the Trinity retirement home, mostly staff were using the route rather than residents.

Galloway said the region can’t provide custom service to staff, but it can look at other routes in the neighbourh­ood and perhaps find a solution that’s more convenient.

“There are different issues at both ends,” Galloway said.

He expects staff to come back with a report before the end of the year with potential options before the pilot is discontinu­ed.

The Trinity-Freeport route was one of three alternativ­e service delivery pilot projects launched last fall in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge in areas that are difficult to serve with convention­al buses and routes. They used on-demand service, smaller or privately owned vehicles, and partnershi­ps.

Trinity-Freeport offered community bus access to seniors and medical facilities in South Kitchener delivered by Voyago Transporta­tion. Initially it was on-demand with no fixed route or schedule, but that was tweaked in October to operate on a schedule with both fixed and requested stops.

Both the 901 and 903 Flex Northwest Waterloo, a ridesharin­g service in partnershi­p with RideCo, will continue beyond their 10-month run to the end of this year, giving customers time to prepare and the region more time to test and learn.

The 902 Flex Hespeler Village, a subsidized taxi service with Golden Triangle Taxi, is slated to end on Sept. 6, but regional staff will continue discussion­s with a community organizati­on on an alternativ­e.

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