Fredericton reverses Lincoln, Silverwood bus cuts
Fredericton council votes to try service on two routes for 12 months on reduced schedule
Fredericton city councillors have reversed a decision to axe two city bus routes.
Service to the Lincoln and Silverwood areas was to be cancelled on Labour Day, but will now be partially retained.
The vote means that the two routes will now only run half as frequently as before and riders on all routes may end up having to pay for the extension.
In July, councillors had voted to cancel both the 18 and the 20 routes as part of an effort to increase the frequency of other routes.
That sparked an online campaign by residents, mainly in the Lincoln area, to keep the services alive.
A compromise was reached at Monday night's council meeting.
The routes will be kept for at least 12 months, but cut from eight runs a day, to four — two in the morning, and two in the evening.
Gino Arsenault lives in Lincoln and sometimes uses the bus to collect his kids from daycare. Arsenault says the extension is better than nothing.
"We rely immensely on the bus service," he said.
"I'm happy, obviously, that we are going to have some bus service, still disappointed that it is scaled back."
The city's transportation committee chair, Coun. John MacDermid, said keeping the service for a year will cost around $117,000.
One way to fund that could be a fare increase.
"You can put the fare up but you're going to lose some riders in there," said MacDermid.
"For the sake of two runs out to Silverwood and Lincoln Heights, myself personally, that that's an awful lot to ask of other riders."
Mayor Brad Woodside warned that every new expense needs to be paid for, while tipping his hat to "people power."
"And it just goes to show that sometimes, you can fight City Hall," he said.
The city will now study the cost of the extension. A report is due out in two weeks, which could suggest a fare increase of as much as 50 cents per ride.
Meanwhile, a provincial cabinet minister campaigning for re-election has been politely told to stay out of the Fredericton transit debate.
Jody Carr wades into transit debate
Jody Carr has been floating ideas on social media for improvements to the service, including extending the Lincoln route to Oromocto.
He also promised a provincial transportation strategy this fall.
MacDermid says a citizen's group has been lobbying the province for such a plan for two years.
"So I guess one of the things is, why wasn't this conversation happening two years ago?," he said.
MacDermid says regional busing is a separate issue from whether to cut city routes.
James Terhune, who has lobbied to save the routes, said it's fine with him if the election spurred Carr's interest in city issues.
"We've used that to our advantage as well to get more recognition and that from him," said Terhune.
"Because it's election time, he's hearing about it a lot and he needs to be seen as someone who'll work with constituents on their issues."
Carr did not respond to a request for an interview.