United Manitoulin Transit board continues to develop transportation proposal

MANITOULIN – United Manitoulin Islands Transit (UMIT) president, executive director and board members, as well as Central Manitoulin Councillor Steve Shaffer, continue to meet every two weeks during COVID-19, through teleconferencing.

Executive director Joahnna Berti introduced an agenda item regarding a FedNor internship potential. She spoke with Arik Thjeismeijer regarding this and told the members that UMIT is eligible for a post-secondary placement position with 90 percent of the salary covered by the internship grant, and work will continue with developing the application.

Ms. Berti also spoke with Destination Manitoulin Island executive director Shelba Millette and said that there may be some collaborative marketing strategies that could be mutually beneficial; and further arrangements can be pursued when things are a little clearer in terms of recreational and commercial operations reopening.

The meeting was told a phone meeting was held by Ms. Berti with John Bath, the major organizer for Sioux Lookout Transit Hub, to gain information on transit challenges. She reported that the biggest issue in Sioux Lookout was the moving from Handi Transit to public transit. Maintaining and increasing ridership is also a significant challenge for that area.

The bylaw committee consisting of Ms. Berti and board members Rose Shawanda and Christine Sarbu have been working on a review of the existing bylaws and it was noted that the bylaw concerning dues has to be spelled out. It is anticipated that after this is complete, and perusal by the board, they will be soon ready for adoption. The board will also peruse the draft business plan.

Ms. Berti also mentioned that the UMIT logo has arrived and has been designed into letterhead for introductory purposes in townships and First Nations.

Attention was turned to the transit agreement that UMIT has with A.J. Bus Lines. Ms. Berti told the members that she has spoken again with consultant Wally Beck about the agreement and said that it is very important that “we review this very well.” She will see if Central Manitoulin has a lawyer who can go over the document and will also consider if the municipality has an insurance adjuster who can review the agreement.

Board member Maja Mielonen then questioned why there are so many bus stops in Little Current and no stop in Aundeck Omni Kaning (AOK) as part of the proposal. “Is there a stop planned?” she queried. 

Ms. Berti replied that there is in fact a stop at the Hill Street intersection and added that stops can be added or changed as bugs are ironed out. She added that Mr. Beck had suggested doing test runs before setting routes and proposed that there be a basic schedule. 

Ms. Sarbu asked if Mr. Beck gave suggestions regarding routes with COVID-19 in place because, as Ms. Mielonen had said, “people will not want to go on a bus at this time.”

Ms. Berti informed the board that operations will resume slowly and in stages. She noted that the bus seats are plush for longer rides and there will be an enhanced cleaning schedule. Also, there will be hand sanitizer at the entrance to the bus which the driver will use and as each person prepares to board the bus, they will use the sanitizer and then drop their money into the box. UMIT will also have boxes of gloves on hand for riders.

Councillor Shaffer then spoke of his concerns with stops being identified. Ms. Berti responded by saying that the stops for Central Manitoulin are in Mindemoya at Foodland, the municipal office and the hospital and noted again that stop destinations can be changed.

The members then discussed the transit agreement with Councillor Shaffer saying, “the more you read the transit agreement, the more questions you have.”

President Guy Dumas explained that the members have to recognize that UMIT came from different entities that joined together. UMIT members, he said, need to have a good understanding of the agreement with A.J. Bus Lines which is between them, UMIT and Central Manitoulin. “Take the time to review the agreement.” 

Mr. Dumas also said he will ask Mr. Beck to facilitate a meeting strictly about the agreement. 

Mr. Dumas also asserted that “Islanders own the transit on Manitoulin. Not a person or an agency or a municipality or a First Nation government.”