TROUT Public Transit looks back at 2013 with mixed feelings

TROUT Rural Public TransitWe at TROUT Public Transit look back on 2013 with mixed feelings. We are thankful for the visionaries who support public transportation in our community – the municipal politicians, business owners, and others who know the value of public transportation for our non-driving friends and neighbours and for economic growth. They know that public transportation is a key component of sustainability for rural communities.

We are proud that rural communities throughout North America look to Trout Public Transit for counsel and inspiration for their public transportation initiatives. And we are deeply grateful to the Province of Ontario and Community Care North Hastings for their support and encouragement.

However, we have much work to do. We receive no support from the County of Hastings (future historians may be curious about that) and no support, or only token support, from seven of the eight municipalities we served last year.

Thank you to the Municipality of Highlands East in Haliburton County for your full support in 2013. We look forward to nurturing our relationship with you to address your public transportation needs.

Looking ahead, TROUT Public Transit remains committed to helping people in North Hastings and Highlands East access the goods and services they need to live with independence and dignity in our community.

Also, we will be seeking expanded support from local municipalities and the business community for the economic growth and development potential that a public transportation service offers. The extent of that support will dictate our direction in 2014 and beyond.

John Keith,  MA

Manager, Transportation Services

 

Rural Ontario Municipalities Curious About Public Transportation

rural public transitSomebody out there sees the value of public transportation service in rural Ontario communities. And that’s encouraging.

Rural municipalities are beginning to see that public transportation boosts local economies by connecting people to goods, services, and jobs, with a benefit-to-cost ratio of more than 3 to 1 for rural communities not uncommon.

They’re noting that public transportation is of vital importance for attracting prospective new residents – ranked second, right behind adequate healthcare.

And, they are becoming more sensitive to the requirements of their non-driving ratepayers. Public transportation fosters independence and dignity, and it enriches quality of life by providing social and cultural opportunities otherwise restricted to some of their friends and neighbours.

I’ve been invited by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to conduct a presentation on rural public transportation at the Ontario East Municipal Conference in Kingston on Thursday, September 12.

It will be interesting to see how many folks pop in for the hour-long session and what their backgrounds and interests are.

As a former educator, I cannot help but inject an interactive component into the get together to TROUT PASSENGERS 001bring out some ideas and perceptions about providing public transportation for an increasing number of non-drivers in rural Ontario communities.

We will discuss benefits of rural public transportation.  We’ll identify barriers, with cost right up there at the top of the list, I expect.  And we’ll look at ways to address barriers.

I will also provide participants with a brief overview of the TROUT Transit operation, and offer some insights based on research and my experiences as manager of a rural public transportation service.

TROUT Public Transit is in its fourth year of operation serving seven municipalities in rural Hastings County and one municipality in the County of Haliburton. Ridership increased 24% in the last fiscal year, and the need for public transportation in our communities continues to rise.

Hats off to rural Ontario municipalities for their curiosity about public transportation. It’s the first step toward evolving local transportation infrastructures to meet the needs of increasing numbers of non-driving ratepayers,  grow local economies, and contribute to a sustainable future.

Trout Rural Public Transit  005

Gas Tax Fuels Transit Improvements

News Release

July 8, 2013

Ontario Government Strengthens Commitment to Public Transit

Ontario is providing $324 million in gas tax funding to 96 municipal transit systems this year.

The funding will help municipalities expand and improve public transit infrastructure, increase accessibility, buy more conventional and specialized transit vehicles, add more routes and extend hours of service.

This year, the Ontario government made its Gas Tax Program permanent to help municipalities improve public transit, ease traffic congestion and reduce air pollution. The change was made as part of the 2013 Budget to provide stability for municipalities and help them plan.

Investing in public transit is part of the Ontario government’s plan to help reduce congestion, strengthen the economy and build a fair and prosperous society.

 

QUICK FACTS

  • Ontario shares two cents per litre of provincial gas tax revenues with municipalities to expand and improve their public transit systems.
  • With this year’s allocation, the Ontario government has committed more than $2.6 billion in gas tax funding since 2004.
  • One bus takes up to 40 vehicles off the road, and keeps 25 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere each year.
  • In 2011, public transit ridership in Ontario increased by nearly 171 million passenger trips compared to 2003. This is the equivalent of removing approximately 143 million car trips off the province’s roads.

 

LEARN MORE

 

QUOTES

“The new Ontario government’s permanent, dedicated Gas Tax Program provides sustainable transit funding municipalities can count on to improve transit services across the province. Our transit investments help build better communities, support our economy, protect our environment and improve overall quality of life for Ontarians.”
— Glen Murray, Minister of Infrastructure, Minister of Transportation

 

CONTACTS

Ajay Woozageer
Communications Branch
416-327-1158

Bob Nichols
Communications Branch
416-327-1158
Bob.Nichols@ontario.ca

Patrick Searle
Minister’s Office
416-327-1815
patrick.searle@ontario.ca

Ministry of Transportation
http://www.ontario.ca/transportation

 

Trimming transportation costs in retirement

Retirement savers are often warned about the impact of health-care and housing costs, but there’s another major expense Americans need to plan for as they age—transportation.

Transportation costs, regardless of income, account for 14% of expenses for retirees, on average, according to the Social Security Administration’s “Expenditures of the Aged Chartbook,” which is based on data from the 2010 Consumer Expenditure Survey Public-Use File.

Now at first glance, that might not seem to be a large expense. After all, housing is at 35%. But after housing, transportation is the average retiree’s second-largest expense in retirement. And it’s an especially big expense and issue for older Americans who live in rural areas and don’t have access to public transportation, according to Joe Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab. He spoke recently (as did I) at the Financial Communication Society’s 5th Annual Education Summit.

So what can you do to tame transportation costs in retirement? Here’s what experts had to say.

How much do you spend on transportation?

The average retiree household spends 14% on transportation, but you might spend more or you might spend less. But you won’t really know until you crunch the numbers. “We always encourage that pre-retirees complete a very comprehensive budget which includes transportation costs so that they are fully prepared when faced with the cost,” said Gavin Morrissey, a senior vice president of wealth management at Commonwealth Financial Network.

Others note how such costs can be budget busters. “Transportation costs can add up for retirees,” said Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies and marketing for Ameriprise Financial. “Those expenses can range from simply getting around town for day-to-day errands to the cost of travel to see family, friends or sites.”

Time to get creative

No matter what you spend on transportation, it’s likely that you take it all for granted. You likely drive to work, to malls and to the movies without thinking twice about it. But that may have to change in the future, or at least it might have to change for those who want to keep their transportation costs in retirement in check.

“It’s time for all of us to be creative about where we drive and how frequently,” said Sandra Timmermann, vice president and director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

In the future, Timmermann and others say, retirees and pre-retirees will need to consider planning their trips more carefully, and grouping errands together. They might, for instance, check with neighbors if they just need a few groceries, or take turns with friends driving to the store, going to social events, and the like, Timmermann said.

Like Timmermann, Karen Wimbish, director of retail retirement for Wells Fargo, recommends that retirees and pre-retirees consider carpooling and ride sharing. “Go grocery shopping with friends and share the cost of gas or alternate the use of cars,” Wimbish suggested.

“In the same way that people are sharing housing costs, they may also be able to share transportation expenses,” said Shannon Reid, director of retirement solutions at Raymond James Financial.

So, for example, if you no longer need to have a car to commute to work every day, car sharing or carpooling can become easier options with the more flexible schedule of some retirees, Reid said.

And don’t be shy about looking for carpooling buddies. “If you are commuting to daily or weekly activities like exercise classes or volunteer opportunities, near where you live consider sharing a ride with a friend who is doing the same activities,” said de Baca. “Ask around and you may find that others are also looking for a driving companion.”

And, if you live in the city, consider sharing cab rides.

Who needs two cars anyway?

Retirees should also evaluate whether they need two cars for one household. “With both spouses no longer working there may be more schedule flexibility which may allow for their transportation needs to be met with one vehicle,” said Morrissey.

Wimbish said another way to trim transportation costs—at least for those who are able—is to walk more.

Consider public transportation

If you are planning to retire to another location, consider not only tax rates and climate but also whether there’s public transportation. “Will there be shuttles to places such as grocery stores, church, and shopping centers?” asked Wimbish.

Others share that point of view. “While moving isn’t an option for many people, relocating to an active adult community near amenities or with its own transportation services or to a downtown area where stores and restaurants are within walking distance could be a good choice for a number of reasons,” Timmermann said. “In addition to the benefits of saving money on transportation, being closer to services and near other people is an antidote to social isolation.

De Baca also thinks public transportation is a viable way to cut costs. “Depending on where you live, public transportation can be a convenient and inexpensive way to get around,” she said. “Bus, train, or trolley systems can be safe and offer reasonable fares.”

In addition, de Baca recommends exploring community-sponsored senior transportation. “Some communities offer transportation options to seniors, such as van services or even vouchers or sliding scale fees for public transportation,” she noted.

Plan ahead/shop around

It might seem a bit obvious, but if you’re retired don’t forget to plan ahead for air travel. “Discount airfares are available for those who plan ahead or shop around,” said de Baca. “If you know your travel plans in advance, lock in attractive rates by exploring fare deals or looking for travel packages.”

Also, shop around for car insurance. “If you are still driving a car, consider shopping around for auto insurance,” said de Baca. “You may be surprised at how competitive the marketplace is and be able to shave some cash off your fixed expenses.”

Transportation costs fall over time

There is one other item to consider about transportation costs in retirement. Those costs are likely to fall from 14% of expenses to less than 10% over the course of retirement, as people age and become less mobile. “With retirement, daily transportation needs (such as commuting to work) fall to a great extent, and with increasing age and declining health people become more restricted to the indoors, which cuts entertainment expenses,” wrote Sudipto Banerjee of the Employee Benefit Research Institute in 2012. Read Banerjee’s report, Expenditure Patterns of Older Americans, 2001‒2009.

Median transportation spending in 2010 dollars, and mean percentage:

Age Amount % of total
50-64 $4247 14
65-74 $2927 12
75-84 $2091 10
85+ $936 7

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates from the Consumption and Activities Mail Survey, 2001-2009.

Robert Powell is editor of Retirement Weekly, published by MarketWatch. Learn more about Retirement Weekly here. Follow his tweets at RJPIII. Got questions about retirement? Get answers. Email rpowell@marketwatch.com.

Transportation woes mount for patients

Brenda Snider, executive director for Volunteer and Information Quinte, said her organization is struggling to assist people in need of transportation to medical appointments as current services are stretched to their limits for volunteer drivers and excessive fuel costs. The double whammy has seriously impacted people in need of rides to important appointments, said Snider.

“The core issue is that we’re seeing an increasing number of individuals requiring transportation services that do not fall into any particular category,” said Snider.

One such individual is the 78-year-old mother of high school teacher Debbie Clare , Elizabeth MacLeod, who must travel to Kingston for a medical appointment later this month. While Clare has been able to secure transportation for her wheelchair-bound mother, it was a long, drawn-out process.

“My mom’s had a stroke so she is basically a quadriplegic,” she explained. “She requires 24-hour care and she is at Hastings Manor.”

Last year, MacLeod developed a sore on her back that was determined to be cancerous and of such a size that a plastic surgeon would have to remove it. The doctor forwarded MacLeod to a Kingston-based surgeon who will perform the necessary procedure later next week.

While Clare said she was happy to finally have an appointment for her mother, she had no idea how difficult it would be to get her there.

“I assumed the Manor would take her, but they don’t do that. I phoned different local agencies that the Manor said would probably provide wheelchair transportation, but one told me I wasn’t in their geographic area, another said because she wasn’t registered as a client they couldn’t take her, another agency said their volunteers do drive cancer patients, but they aren’t wheelchair accessible … It just went on and on,” she said.

Even options such as taking a train or borrowing someone’s vehicle proved futile as time concerns and medical needs created constraints. Using either a wheelchair bus or wheelchair-accessible taxi were also investigated but prices between $500 and $700 for a round-trip to Kingston were too high.

“I just thought things were getting a little outrageous,” Clare said. “I literally called 15 or 20 people and I even went to our MPP’s office and they, eventually, put me in touch with an agency who is able to take her.”

Despite securing transportation for her mother, Clare said there is no reason people in need of transportation for medical appointments should have to face such an uphill struggle.

“It just continued to be six or seven days of a few hours on the telephone trying to get this done,” she said. “How do people in a wheelchair that don’t have their own vehicle survive? How can they get anything done? It was such an eye opener throughout the whole thing.”

Clare said as she continued to be bounced back and forth from agency to agency she questioned why there isn’t a better system in place to take care of people in need of such transportation.

“I just thought the whole thing was overwhelming,” she said.

It can be, Snider concurred.

Clare’s story, sadly, is not unusual. Snider said her agency receives between three to four calls each week with residents sharing similar stories. While there are agencies out there many can’t meet the demand and there is a large gap left where many people fall.

“There are a lot of people out there who don’t have the means or the finances to acquire needed transportation,” she said.

Snider explained many local residents often require medical care in Kingston and are forced to face the same battle Clare recently waged. However, even shorter trips such as travelling from Quinte West to Belleville can bring financial woes and hardships.

“It’s not that agencies don’t want to help, it’s that they can’t because they’re already overburdened,” she said. “Agencies have pulled together and have done what they need and what they can. It’s an issue that everybody knows is there but no one knows the solution.”

Snider, however, said there is a solution there if someone would step forward.

“The ideal solution would be if there was an organization that handled transportation for everyone,” she said. “But, who’s going to take that on and where does the funding come from?”

brice.mcvicar@sunmedia.ca