Transportation services lacking in northern Wellington County

Jen­nifer Hammond says the number one barrier to accessing social and health care services in Wellington County is a lack of transportation options.
And the problem may be worse in Mapleton Township.
Hammond, a program de­veloper with the newly formed Wellington Transportation Services (WTS), admitted during a recent visit to council there is a deficiency in the number of partners the group has in Mapleton.
Hammond said there is clearly a need for expanding and improving transportation services in Wellington County, particularly in the north.
In 2006 the Rural Well­ing­ton Transportation Group, the main player in the WTS, provided 311 rides. But at that time it was limited to serving those receiving support from the Ontario Works Program or Ontario Disability Support Program.
Last year, when its mandate was expanded to include low income families, the group provided 965 rides, an increase of 210%.
Also, the number of clients increased from 64 to 218 (up 240%), and the number of kilometres travelled increased by 408%.
The main goal of WTS, which received a Trillium grant last year and $95,000 from the county this year, is to streamline existing programs and improve organization. As well, expanding the system capacity to better manage increased de­mand for service is a critical element.
One of the main tools the group hopes to utilize to achieve its goals is a new phone number: 1-866-694-9562.
Anyone in need of transportation services, including low-income individuals, seniors, and those with disabilities, can call the number. They will then be directed to the service provider that best suits their needs.
Hammond said the new number should help save time for everyone involved.
Mayor John Green said there are three small but vital urban communities in Map­le­ton –  Alma, Drayton, and Moore­field – as well as more rural locations, all of which may be home to individuals who want to access transportation services.
“I think there’s something we can do with [WTS] to im­prove the service for the community,” Green said, adding there may indeed be a lack of transportation services in the township.
He added the township will do its part to make residents aware of the new services being offered to them, including the 1-866 number.
Last week Hammond visited Guelph-Eramosa and Erin councils, where her message was also well received.
“It certainly is a need in our community,” said Erin Mayor Rod Finnie. He added that improved transportation services have been needed for some time and he hopes WTS helps.
Guelph-Eramosa Mayor Chris White agreed.
“We absolutely support it,” White said of his council’s position. “This is a much needed service.”
White added that he hopes  staff will be able to post the information on the township’s website.