Improving transit to GRH Freeport2 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
Written by: Melissa Murray, Grand River Transit
Grand River Hospital’s Freeport Campus is located in a lovely setting, built into a steep hillside sloping down toward the Grand River. But that beautiful location on the hill can be a nightmare for patients who rely on transit to get to hospital appointments.
And since Freeport Campus is the region’s primary rehabilitation hospital, many of those patients are using crutches or wheelchairs.
“I’ve heard from my patients in wheelchairs, that it’s virtually impossible because you’re going at breakneck speed [down the hill]. But trying to go up the hill, you have to be a Paralympian to have the exercise capacity,” said Dr. Doug Dittmer, physical medical specialist.
Regional Councillor Sue Foxton is a right leg amputee and saw the problem for herself when she was doing rehab at the hospital.
“If you look at the steepness of the hill or the distance, it’s insurmountable. It’s like asking us to climb Everest,” she said.
Councillor Foxton challenged Regional Councillors to try going up and down the hill with crutches or a wheelchair.
And while Grand River Transit wanted to improve the service for patients, there was no way that a regular conventional bus could navigate the sharp turn and steep hill at the entrance to Freeport.
“Improving transit to Freeport Campus has been a priority for Grand River Transit for years. We knew that patients, staff and visitors deserved better, so we never stopped looking for ways to make that happen,” said Neil Malcolm, acting director of Transit Services.
The problem required some ingenuity, new technology, and lots of collaboration between Freeport, Design and Construction staff, and Grand River Transit to solve. The solution? New smaller buses, a reconfigured turn off Morrison Road and readjusted parking spaces to give the bus more space to turn.
Now Route 27 Morrison stops right next to the front doors of the hospital. The improved service provides more travel options to GRH visitors, staff and patients, who can connect to Route 27 from Fairway Station.
“A lot of our patients unfortunately don’t have the financial means for vehicular transport and parking. It has made it very difficult for some people to get here,” said Dr. Dittmer. “We knew it was going to be a long haul to get transit here, so today is an extremely gratifying day to know that our patients finally have another option, and can be brought directly to our hospital door to receive care.