Bus travel close to reality

Community

Travel between Stellarton and New Glasgow for those with no means of transportation is just about a reality with a fixed route bus service.

At both Stellarton and New Glasgow’s committee of the whole meetings last week, councils voted in favour of proceeding with the three-year pilot project that will provide a bus route between Stellarton and New Glasgow. The decision has to be ratified at the next town council meetings.

The service, set to begin in April, will have one bus and one route on a one-hour loop between the towns for a $3 return fare (with discounts for age if purchased in bulk). The route hits all of the seniors homes in the two towns as well as the hospital, library and mall in New Glasgow and the community college and Wellness Centre in Stellarton. The bus will travel Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

The fixed route bus will be an 18-passenger low-floor vehicle and will be owned by the towns of Stellarton and New Glasgow; CHAD will be contracted to manage the operations and provide a backup bus if needed.

Stellarton Mayor Danny MacGillivray, who is CHAD’s executive director, excused himself from council chambers during the discussion.

Coun. Bryan Knight said he drove the proposed route and was impressed. “It hits every seniors complex, it hits the main streets, malls, the hospital. It’s about a 50-55 minute round trip. When the idea first came up I was hoping they would put it under CHAD rather than paying two managers to run the system.”

Stellarton Town Clerk Susan Higdon noted, “When this concept was first introduced it was introduced to all of the municipalities in Pictou County. It’s very costly, it’s a service that’s being provided to citizens and is not expected to make money.”

Coun. Garry Pentz said, “It’s been awhile since we had a transit system in Pictou County and I feel we should try it to see what happens.”

Coun. Simon Lawand echoed Pentz’s comments. “If we want to move forward we should try this. It is our responsibility to our residents to try this.”

Coun. Susan Campbell clarified that the endeavor is a three-year pilot project, so if it is unsuccessful in the first year, the town has to continue to offer the service for the full three years. Also, that if the project is scrapped after the three years, because it is a partnership with the Town of New Glasgow, the assets would be split between the two towns, based on a formula. Higdon confirmed both queries.

In New Glasgow, Mayor Nancy Dicks said, “In any conversation that you have (when) talking about the Wellness Centre, the first thing people bring up if there’s an issue is transportation, and that is a problem for almost everything we do in the county — jobs, recreation, healthcare, all of those things — so we’re hoping that it gets done and done well so it provides a service that people need.”

She said of the two towns working together, “This has been great to work with Stellarton on this proposal. Because of Danny’s (MacGillivray’s) connection working with CHAD, he has a lot of background in how this all works in rural transportation. If there’s anyone who can put this together and do it right I believe Danny is the person.”

If the CHAD board approves the proposal, a bus will be ordered.

The federal and provincial governments are contributing to the first year of service. The bus has been budgeted to cost $160,000. Costs in the second and third years of the project will be shared between the towns of Stellarton and New Glasgow.