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'You're out of luck': Stouffville residents feel left behind by York Region Transit

Mayor says town lacks convenient transit
May 2, 2022
Simon Martin

Ask someone in Stouffville if they take York Region Transit and you are likely to get a laugh. If you want to get somewhere from Stouffville using public transit, best of luck.

Take Ben Sawyer. The Grade 9 Stouffville resident attends Unionville High School for the arts program and getting to and from school in a decent time without a ride is challenge.

“We have set up a carpool with four other families,” Karen Sawyer said. But that’s not an ideal solution moving forward. Sawyer, who is passionate about public transit, would like to see her children learn how to use it.

“If you don’t get kids using public transportation now they are never going to use it,” she said. 

The problem is the buses are infrequent and a trip from Warden Avenue and Highway 7 back to Stouffville is likely to take an hour and half. “The route is very convoluted, and it takes forever to get to one central network at Markham Stouffville Hospital,” she said.

Sawyer is trying to organize a bus to Unionville High School from Stouffville for the numerous students in the arts and STEM programs.

But even a special bus for the school is just a Band-Aid solution to a larger problem. Sawyer said it’s time for the various levels of government to get together and come up with transit that works for people.

“We need to think more creatively,” she said. “How can we get more people to take the bus and make this a more feasible service. Nobody even considers taking York Region Transit. You do it once and you never do it again.” 

Laura Cusack has been thinking about the lack of transit in Stouffville more than usual of late. The executive director of the Hummingbird Hub has been attempting to co-ordinate transit for a family Afghan refugees that recently arrived to Stouffville. When a driver cancelled for a recent appointment in Aurora, Cusack was surprised to see it would take two-plus hours on transit to get the family to their 8:30 a.m. appointment. “There were so many transfers I wouldn’t have been able to figure it out let alone a family new to Canada,” she said. “They needed to get their health cards.” Eventually Cusack was able to get a volunteer driver from the Stouffville Lions Club but she said driving shouldn’t be the only reasonable solution. “People are falling through the cracks.”

Ward 6 Coun. Sue Sherban said the current transit available to Stouffville is woefully inadequate. “When you’re not on Highway 7, Yonge Street or Davis Drive, you're out of luck,” she said. “We are just looking for basic transportation services in Stouffville.”

In 2020, York Region Transit cancelled Route 15 in Stouffville due to low ridership. A ridership analysis found that Route 15 currently carries approximately 35 passenger trips per weekday and approximately two to four passenger trips on the weekend, and operates at a revenue-to-cost ratio of nine per cent. As a result, each passenger trip is subsidized by approximately $33.86 on weekdays, $119.80 on Saturdays, and $122.55 on Sundays/holidays.

Mayor Iain Lovatt said the lack of decent transit options for residents is becoming a problem. “There is a major deficiency of convenient transit in Whitchurch-Stouffville,” Lovatt said.

Sherban certainly agrees. For the Afghan family to get their health cards in Aurora they would have had to get on the 6:30 a.m. bus on Ninth Line and head the wrong direction and get off a 16th Avenue, take the 16th Avenue bus to Yonge Street, get off and take the Yonge Street bus north, which would get them to their destination at 8:57. “This is totally unacceptable, and our community deserves better transit options for such important and necessary appointments,” she said. “This is the best they could do and it would have made them 27 minutes late for their 8:30 a.m. appointment.”