Saugeen Mobility and Regional Transit (SMART) has received $714,000 in funding from the Gas Tax Fund. This funding has increased by 30 per cent since 2020.
“This funding plays a critical role and is essential in order to continue the door-to-door service SMART mobility provides,” said SMART president Mike Myatt.
SMART, a specialized public transit service, plays a significant role in providing transportation to residents of nine municipalities across Bruce and Grey Counties – Arran-Elderslie, Brockton, Chatsworth, Hanover, Huron-Kinloss, Kincardine, Saugeen Shores, Southgate and West Grey.
In 2019, SMART received $255,912 in funding from the provincial portion of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, Public Transit Stream, to purchase 11 new specialized transit buses. The total cost of the project however, was $767,813.
As with other sectors, SMART is struggling in the COVID-19 pandemic. In May and April 2020, ridership was down by 90 per cent and, despite a slight recovery, the number was still down by 75 per cent with overall ridership down by more than 50 per cent.
Individual ridership dropped by almost 50 per cent with the resulting user fees in 2020 also reflecting the drop.
With COVID-19 lockdowns, excursion rates have seen the biggest decline and, in 2020, group user fees were down more than 77 per cent to $3,870 compared to $16,975 in the same time in 2019.
When COVID-19 began and the numbers declined, Roger Cook, Saugeen Mobility Manager, said that “Clients who do venture out continue to enjoy a safe and dependable service. All drivers and clients are required to wear masks and sanitize hands before boarding, vehicles are all sanitized thoroughly and clear barriers are in the process of being installed. It has been a steep learning curve for everyone but we continue with hope.”
For more information on SMART, including eligibility and registration, visit https://saugeenmobility.ca/.