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Fixed route public transit back on the table for upper towns

Community

Councils in at least two towns are interested in the idea of providing a public transit service for their residents.

Both Trenton and Stellarton town councils decided at their regular meetings last week to buy into their portion of a proposed feasibility study into a fixed route transit for the four upper towns.

Momentum for the project has ramped up since the recently announced federal funding for municipally operated public transit projects.

“This arose from considerable discussion at the last Mayors and Warden meeting and the final recommendation coming out of that committee was the four upriver towns — Westville, Stellarton, New Glasgow and Trenton — collaborate on a review of what’s do-able with transit within their territory. Hopefully it’s simplified some of the issues around shared transit,” said Trenton CAO Brian White.

A steering committee was struck, chaired by Stellarton Mayor Danny MacGillivary, and including New Glasgow Mayor Nancy Dicks and the four CAOs and clerks from the four towns. This group recommended the study be completed by Four Points Consulting.

The cost of the feasibility is $5,000 plus HST, being split evenly between the four upper towns, if they all agree, at a cost of $1,250 plus tax per municipal unit.

Trenton councillor Steven Stewart commented, “It’s something that is needed, there is no doubt.”

The study will build on a previous study from CHAD Transit. In 2016, Central Highlands Association for the Disabled proposed fixed routes for buses travelling throughout Pictou County. At that time CHAD’s executive director, Stellarton Mayor Danny MacGillivray, said it would be the first fixed bus route service since Pictou County Transit closed in 1996 and provincial funding ended. This new proposal would involve only the four upper towns and would not be run by CHAD; instead, it will be a municipally run operation.

MacGillivray pointed out that, if it goes ahead, the pilot project may not require municipal funding. “The province and the federal government will be spending money in the next 10 years on public transit and if we don’t get an existing ridership going — and we have zero right now — we won’t be eligible for any of those funds and that’s why it’s important to make this happen sooner rather than later in the four upper towns if we can.”

Stellarton councillor Gary Pentz described a cautionary tale to members of his council: “I remember when we had the transit system in Pictou County before and we were 50 per cent funded by the Province of Nova Scotia, then all of a sudden the province cut the funding off and what happened to the transit system? I’m just warning council to beware.”