CORNWALL, Ontario – A petition with nearly 400 signatures is making the rounds online to see Cornwall institute Sunday service for its transit service.
But such a move won’t come cheap.
The best estimate suggests taxpayers will have to fork over another $400,000 (give or take a few bucks) annually to cover the added expense of putting buses on the road Sundays.
Petitioners have said they’d like to see Cornwall follow in the footsteps of other communities, including large centres like Toronto that have seven-day-a-week service.
“It is very hard to get from one end of town to the other by walking on Sundays, especially if you have to be on your feet all day at work,” reads the online petition. “Please do not say it is a budget issue because the fact is people purchase monthly passes and bus tickets that they can’t use on Sundays.”
But the budget is very much part of the decision-making process.
City Transit manager Len Tapp added users of the service could also expect an increase in fares, as well as the cost of a monthly bus pass, to help cover the costs of buses on the road an additional day.
“That would be eight hours a day…three routes and the Handi Transits,” said Tapp. “They would be community routes – we would have to create the routes to try to get as many people moving as we could.”
There is an argument in some quarters from people who suggest that most businesses are open all week – and employees need an option to transport them to work.
Kamala Wright, creator of the petition and a regular user of Cornwall Transit, said bus service on Sundays would be integral to her job.
“I work at the Best Western and I work Sundays,” she said. “It’s pretty hard to get to work. I take a taxi, but if it’s really nice I walk.”
All the way from her home in east-end Cornwall on Belmont Street – not exactly a stroll in the park considering the Best Western is located way up on Vincent Massey Drive.
Wright said she would pay more for the bus if it meant Sunday service.
“I’m just a person who takes a bus. If it goes up I will pay for it,” she said.
Wright has an ally in Coun. Justin Towndale.
“Maybe that’s something we should look at,” said Coun. Justin Towndale, an advocate of exploring the issue in spite of the costs. “Everything is open. A lot of these are shifts, or minimum-wage jobs. All these places are open on Sundays and you can’t just not show up because you can’t get to work.
“It’s not fair to the employees.”
Tapp, while supportive of the move in principle, suggested there are more pressing issues in his department outside of a move to create a Sunday service.
The age of the bus fleet – pegged at an average of 12 years per bus when the industry standard is closer to six or seven – is a concern.
It cost $466,000 to replace an aged bus this year, which was covered through gas tax funding. In a couple of years taxpayers will be on the hook instead.
Tapp also said route delays are becoming a focus of concern.
“Right now our afternoon buses are running between five and 10 minutes late,” he said. “We’ve put a spare bus out there (to mitigate the delay). But now the community bus route has lesser service.
“Right now we’re trying to find out where the problem is.”
“(And) we could use five more buses. They’re getting older. The cost to maintain them is obviously getting higher.”
City bus rates are set to go up in May, to $2.90 from $2.75 for a regular fare, and $64 from $63 for a monthly pass.