Saint John Transit users defend bus service
Operational audit to make system 'effective and efficient'
With the looming threat of cuts, Saint John Transit users defended their bus service last night and even pitched for improvements.
The event was an open house hosted by Stantec Consulting, a company hired by the city to perform a $100,000 operational audit of the system.
It comes in the wake of a city report issued in the fall that recommended cuts of as much as $2 million from the $7.9 million allotted to the service.
About 45 people crowded into the meeting room at city police headquarters where they were told by Stantec engineer Brian Putre the company has been charged with reviewing the system's, routes, schedules, fares and the buses themselves, with a eye to making the system more "effective and efficient."
"Effectiveness meaning that the service is reliable, it's frequent enough, it goes to and from the places people are travelling," said Putre. "And efficient meaning that the way the service as delivered is being respectful of taxpayer dollars."
It is all enough to leave Mary LeBlanc worried.
As a senior living in the uptown who regularly uses the bus to get to the Regional Hospital in Millidgeville, she's worried about what could be coming.
"The idea of evaluating and revamping the bus system is a big concern. The idea, possibility of cutbacks is an even bigger concern," said LeBlanc.
Shawna Morgan came to represent the Saint John Association for Community Living. She said people with intellectual and physical disabilities depend on the bus service.
She wanted to draw attention to safety issues, like ice-covered snowbanks people are sometimes forced to climb over to get on the bus.
She says bus service at least once an hour on all city routes is essential for many people with jobs.
"How do you find an entry level job if you can't work evenings, because you can't get home?" she asked.
Saint John Transit bus operator Grant Logan watched the event from the back of the room. He is president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1182.
He believes more people would have attended had they been able, but with limited bus service during evening hours some, he says, would have no way to get to the meeting.
He says city transit should have arranged a special run to pick those people up.
"You're trying to save a bus system, or reevaluate a bus system, or redesign a bus system, tell them we'll pick you up at certain areas in the city to bring you here to this," said Logan. "We're wheelchair accessible, all the buses now are. And they could have come here by that."
The municipality is preparing for anticipated budget deficits of about $10 million in 2021 and 2022.
Stantec is scheduled to deliver its report to the city in July or August of this year.
The company did a strategic plan for Fredericton's transit system in 2019.
Halifax Regional Municipality overhauled its transit system over the past two years, putting more buses on high ridership "corridor routes" and reducing or eliminating runs that have few passengers.