Strait bus service could soon hit road

| Community |

PORT HAWKESBURY – It will be a bit later than originally planned, but a
local transit service is expected to hit the streets by the end of next
month.

The official launch of the Strait Area Transit Co-operative service has
been set for Sept. 19, with vehicles expected to begin their routes
soon afterward.

This spring, general manager Malcolm Beaton indicated he hoped the
service might be functional in June. But the many details required to
address prior to launching a public transit service took a bit longer
than anticipated.

The most recent delay came in getting the drivers trained, Beaton said.
The Strait Regional School Board agreed to provide the training, but
wasn’t able to co-ordinate that until mid-September due to vacationing
staff.

"They just didn’t have the resources to put on the training," he said.
"We’re expecting to be up and operating by the end of the month."

Initially, the co-op had hoped to have buses on the road by January, but that was slowed as it waited for funding approvals.

"It’s been a long haul, with many obstacles ahead of us, public
transportation is a very complex issue, the licensing, regulations, the
insurance issues, it’s a lot of T’s to be crossed and I’s to be
dotted," Beaton said. "Even where we have our bus stops, we have to
have those always reviewed by the Utility and Review Board."

The co-op’s 26-passenger bus will be delivered next week. It’s a
standard-size bus, but the service decided to go with modifications
such as coach-style seating and wider aisles.

"Usually on a bus you have 50 or 60 seats and on ours we only have 26,
we wanted to give a lot of space and nice big seats because we don’t
know if we’re going to maybe be renting the bus out on a Saturday to
someone doing excursions, we could be driving for two hours so we want
sure our clientele are very comfortable," Beaton said.

Communities including Port Hastings, Mulgrave and Louisdale would have
access to the bus, which will make two daily trips into Port Hawkesbury.

The service will make pit stops in areas such as L’Ardoise, St.
Peter’s, Chapel Island, Arichat and Petit de Grat, and then transfer
users to the bus in Louisdale and that vehicle will take them into the
town.

In addition to the bus, the service will have two seven-passenger vans.
There’s been a lot of public interest shown in the project, said Beaton, who is also a member of Richmond County council.

The transit co-op is working with Service Canada, which will assist with wages under the pilot project.
In April, the province announced it would contribute $120,000 to the
system. The Strait Area Transit Co-operative would use the one-time
contribution to purchase three vehicles, construct bus shelters and
other related infrastructure to support a transit-service pilot project.