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Durham, others left alone in Smart Commute

Metrolinx discontinues funding for alternative transportation program

Metrolinx will no longer provide funding to Smart Commute, a program aimed at encouraging commuters to use alternative methods of transportation such as carpooling and public transportation.

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Metrolinx has halted funding for a program designed to ease gridlock around the GTA.

Smart Commute encourages residents to carpool, cycle, walk or use public transit instead of driving to work.

Developed in 2007 by Metrolinx and GTA-area municipalities, including Durham Region, the provincial transit authority is no longer providing funding.

“Over the last decade, we’ve accomplished a great deal to establish Smart Commute programs with the regions, which led to the creation of carpool ride matching programs, discounted transit pass programs, walking and cycling programs, and other events and promotions,” says Nitish Bissonauth, a spokesperson for Metrolinx.

Metrolinx stopped providing funding to the Smart Commute program on June 29, with notification provided to the municipalities three months earlier.

In 2018, drivers in Oshawa faced an average of 170 minutes of commuting per day.

Municipalities and Metrolinx had funded the program through an equal partnership.

Durham Region provided $108,622 to Smart Commute in 2018. According to the Smart Commute website, it offers employers site assessments and surveys to help understand behaviours of employees who commute. The program also provides customized action plans to help commuters explore and try other travel options.

While Metrolinx is out of the program, Bissonauth says this doesn’t mean it can’t continue to be successful.

“The Smart Commute program can live on within communities through the regions’ own funding initiatives,” says Bissonauth.

He adds the organization remains committed to supporting initiatives which encourage walking, cycling, transit and other travel options.

Despite Metrolinx discontinuing funding, Brian Bridgeman, Durham’s commissioner of planning and economic development, says the region will continue to offer commuter programming in partnership with other Smart Commute providers, such as York Region.

This includes events such as  Carpool Week, Walk and Wheel October, and more.

However, some custom projects, such as the planned expansion of the carpool management program to other Smart Commute workplaces, won’t go forward in 2019.

After this year, Bridgeman says the region will look for alternate funding and grants in order to run additional programming in 2020.

For more information on Smart Commute, visit https://smartcommute.ca/

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