Thunder Bay's public transit system may take over some of the special needs transportation currently provided by HAGI transit.

Councillors will decide whether to accept a recommendation from city administration at tonight's meeting.

But HAGI executive director Cal Rankin says the move would be a mistake.

"We believe that the plan [by city administration] needs to be rebuilt," he said. "In no way or form have we been consulted on what a plan might look like."

In a report to council, transit manager Brad Loroff notes that HAGI transit carries a lot more passengers per capita than the national average — and a merger could get more people taking regular buses.

si-brad-loroff-220

Brad Loroff, Thunder Bay Transit manager. (CBC)

"So when we use the word integrate, that's what we're talking about," Loroff said.

"[We could create] opportunities for people to use conventional transit, where they could, for some of their trips, some of the time."

Loroff said setting up a travel training program for HAGI clients would encourage them to use regular transit whenever possible.

"It's about measuring an individual's limitations, whether they're physical, mental and cognitive as to why they couldn't use conventional transit. But, find opportunities for those that could use conventional transit for some of their trips, some of the time."

Renovations required

Currently storage and maintenance of the HAGI buses are contracted out to Iron Range Bus Lines.

The cost to renovate the city transit garage to have the HAGI buses stay inside is pegged at roughly $1.1 million. Once the amalgamation is complete — by January 2014 — there will be some small cost savings, the report notes.

The city has to pay transfer costs for vehicle licensing and it still has to work out the details with the HAGI drivers on how to become part of the transit local. HAGI drivers are already unionized

The para-transit system has operated independently for 37 years.

CBC reporter Jeff Walters will cover Monday’s council meeting. He can be followed on Twitter at @jeffwalterscbc.