| Feb 23, 2006


Feature Article - February 23, 2006

Feature Article

February 23, 2006

RuralRoutes gearing up for spring launch

by Jeff Green

One of the biggest challenges facing rural people of limited means is transportation. For people without a vehicle, or people who are no longer able to drive, it is hard to obtain the necessities of life. Medical and social services appointments, which are crucial for so many people, require timely transportation, which is often hard to arrange.

For years, rural social services agencies in Frontenac County have been struggling to provide transportation for their clients, using whatever limited resources they have been able to come up with.

The situation should begin to improve in the coming weeks and months.

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Since late last fall, staff at Northern Frontenac Community Services (NFCS), co-ordinator Jane Drew, and a collaborative of social agencies have been working behind the scenes to develop Rural Routes: The Frontenac Transportation Service.

At first, the new service will be taking on some of the existing transportation services already offered by groups like NFCS and the Learning Centre, but Rural Routes will soon be developing new transportation services for people in Central, North, and parts of South Frontenac.

JaneDrew in her office at the Village Courtyard, 1095 Garrett Street,SharbotLake Through a grant from the Ministry of Health, two new vans will be purchased, and co-ordinator Jane Drew is hoping to develop weekly trips to Kingston , Perth and Smiths Falls for various purposes.

Rural Routes will be providing transportation for various programs, such as Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Supports Program (ODSP), but the new vans should enable cost effective transportation for the general public as well.

“It is expensive to arrange a trip to Kingston for a single person in a car, even with volunteer drivers; but by bringing several people the cost to the individual can come down to a reasonable range, perhaps $20 or so,” Jane Drew said when she talked to the News about some of the preliminary costing that has been done in looking at potential services that Rural Routes might offer.

Already lessons have been learned. In December, a scant few weeks after Jane Drew was hired to start up the program, she attempted to organise a bus trip to Belleville for Christmas shopping, only to find few takers. After she decided to scrap the trip for lack of interest, “people started calling” Jane Drew recalled when interviewed at the Rural Routes office in Sharbot Lake earlier this week. “So, when I began planning a bus trip to Canada Blooms, I made sure people knew they had to book in advance.” So, far, 35 people have confirmed for the Canada Blooms bus and this trip will be going ahead.

Rural Routes will looking for input from the public as it works to develop public transportation in Northern Frontenac County . The Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation has supported Rural Routes with a start up grant from the Eastern Ontario Development Fund, and the Trillium Foundation has provided funding to maintain an administrative office for two years. This will give the service enough time to establish itself in the community. After that time it will need to be self-sustaining.

Similar kinds of services are up and running in Napanee, Carleton Place and Bancroft, under different funding models. Jane Drew is planning to make presentations to the local councils and Frontenac County in the not too distant future. At some point, the agency may indeed be looking for municipal support.

Rural Routes is an ambitious program. If successful, it will provide a host of transportation opportunities for rural people for everything from medical services to leisure time activities. To survive, it will require the support of the public and a commitment to use the service.

The service will start operating very soon, and a grand opening is tentatively scheduled for later this spring.

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