It was quite a site, watching people unite behind a common cause to restore fixed public transit routes to Pictou County.
Nearly 60 people joined a panel that introduced the idea last week of CHAD Transit purchasing one 18-passenger bus to specifically operate on fixed routes between New Glasgow and Pictou and among the other towns. Most of them had their own ideas about what to include in the service and how to include more destinations and ridership to make the service more effective.
How ironic that people in the same room on opposite sides of the recent amalgamation debate were of such singular purpose.
CHAD Transit is the offshoot of Central Highlands Association for the Disabled, whose routes can be traced to Ron Levy’s conclusion that the disabled and most physically challenged of Pictou County residents needed some way to get around after the demise of Pictou County Transit in the mid-1990s.
That part of history was retraced repeatedly by those attending the gathering. They spoke of the larger buses proceeding with mostly empty seats while plying routes around the urban core of the county until provincial funding was pulled.
The abiding theme from the panelists – Central Nova MP Sean Fraser, CHAD executive director Dan MacGillivray and Jamie Stewart who designed the business plan for the proposed service – is that the money is potentially there to operate the route and furnish the extra bus for it.
All three acknowledged and welcomed the suggestions to make the proposed service better, and all of them acknowledged that one has to start somewhere.
Funding is crucial: provincial funding to help finance operations and federal funding to help purchase the new vehicle. That’s why the service won’t start tomorrow and CHAD will do well to implement even a pilot service by next year.
Part of the solution is already in place. MacGillvray said the current municipal funding for CHAD Transit makes it the envy of the province.
MacGillivray said the time has come to augment CHAD’s already successful door-to-door service with fixed routes. He said CHAD is in good financial shape to take on this new challenge, that it’s a way to alleviate a service that is already bulging and restore the missing component of public transit that any vibrant community has.
“Access drives opportunities,” he said. “Public transit is part of a vibrant community.”
MacGillivray is saying that more people will be empowered to use public transit to get to work and school and generally become more mobile than they are now.
Transporting people to the key venues in the county along fixed routes will help. Nova Scotia Community College Pictou Campus principal David Freckelton has long sought public transit to deliver to the school, people who have had no way of getting there.
Let us hope this works out. It can deliver maximum benefit from minimum risk. What’s not to like?
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This editorial has been modified from the one that appears in this week’s copy of The Advocate to correct an error that identified Ron Levy as having been deceased.)