Let’s hope we can reach our destination this time around. The idea of establishing a fixed-route transit service in Pictou County gets some consideration from time to time. It’s now gaining steam with some of the municipalities willing to fund a study on the feasibility.
The towns of Trenton and Stellarton are the first to commit funding to the study. The prospect of considering such a service for the area came up at a meeting of the Pictou County mayor and wardens and, of course, determining whether there is a need is a crucial first step.
The idea is greeted with caution from some, and for good reason, since Pictou County had a public transit system decades ago that ultimately folded.
But things do change. Other municipalities across the country are mulling over similar plans, including towns in Nova Scotia smaller than the Pictou County urban area, such as Bridgewater and Yarmouth.
It’s also an initiative across the country in the move to get more vehicles off the road and curb greenhouse gases. Stellarton Mayor Danny MacGillivray said council had a visit from Central Nova MP Sean Fraser who said funding would be available over the next 10 years toward fixed-route transit.
The tricky thing is to determine the routes and schedule that would satisfy the greatest demand, thus the need for a thorough initial study.
In discussions on this subject in past years, people often would refer to the former bus service, and say how people waiting at a stop would often have an acquaintance pull up and offer them a lift. That’s a nice, folksy description of a friendly area, but it’s not necessarily the kind of thing to expect in the future as new people arrive to make Pictou County home.
Much has been accomplished in recent years by the CHAD bus service revealing instances where public transit is essential. For CHAD, the initial aim was to provide transportation for seniors and disabled residents.
But in addition to that, CHAD’s board and staff have done an excellent job over the years showing how flexible it can be, while also being eager to adapt to changing needs, or offer fresh aspects to its service. The organization’s work stands as a good illustration of how helpful a bus service can be.
With the focus of a feasibility study on needs in the up-river towns, one could muse on areas that could benefit from such a service. We have, for example, a bustling and ever-growing Nova Scotia Community College campus in Stellarton. Students don’t necessarily have access to a vehicle, and some might find it more convenient to reside in one of the other towns.
In general observations, it’s not hard to find reasons why demand for public transit will grow. Rising fuel prices, and inevitable stricter controls on autos regarding their condition and emissions will make ownership less affordable for a greater chunk of the population.
But these are simply observations. A feasibility study is the crucial first step in determining a need and piecing out how it might work.