A recurrent quip heard in Pictou County goes: “If you don’t have a car, what can you do?”
The four upper towns – New Glasgow, Trenton, Stellarton and Westville – are about to explore a solution to that conundrum. The mayors, councils and staff are pursuing the idea of a fixed-route public transit system to help people get around more easily in those towns.
The first step be a feasibility study to see if a busing system is a good option. This study follows on the work of CHAD Transit, which carried out a study last year.
While that pursuit was eventually abandoned, support for a feasibility study for New Glasgow, Stellarton, Trenton and Westville is growing. Two of the four upper towns are now onboard, and have committed their portion of funding toward the study.
At their June 12 meeting, the members of the Town of Trenton council agreed to share in the cost of hiring a consultant.
After a brief discussion at their June 11 meeting, the mayor and councillors of Stellarton decided to contribute $1,250 to the study.
“We had Sean Fraser visit council, and he mentioned there’d be a lot of federal money over the next 10 years for fixed-route transit systems,” said Stellarton Mayor Danny MacGillivray, noting that similar systems are being considered in Bridgewater and Yarmouth. “I think it’s something good for us to look into.”
Coun. Bryan Knight said the study could build on the findings of a study done by CHAD Transit a year ago, adding “it’s something we should look into.”
One member of council who didn’t share in the enthusiasm was Deputy Mayor Garry Pentz. “I have been around long enough to remember when we had a transit system in Pictou County. It was fifty per cent funded by the province of Nova Scotia, and all of a sudden the province cut the funding off.”
Pentz urged caution about getting provincial and federal money. “It looks good, but if we end up paying, we could end up… eventually paying 100 per cent.”
MacGillivray called that a “legitimate concern for sure,” before council approved the motion to contribute to the study.
The transit idea was brought up at a mayors and wardens meeting, and championed by MacGillivray, who was involved in the 2016 feasibility study by CHAD.
MacGillivray said the provincial and federal governments are offering money over a period of 10 years for transit development, “but to access that money, you need a ridership in your community.”
Basically, the opportunity for funding hinges on there being a public transit route to subsidize.
That’s where the feasibility study comes in – once a proper route and plan are established, the four towns are that much closer to qualifying for a decade worth of provincial and federal funding to support such a service.
MacGillivray emphasized the need for what he deems an essential service. “Public transit is necessary for people who don’t own cars. If we can get this study going, we can get help to people who need assistance with transportation.”