Bus service may return to Charlotte County

A Charlotte County group hopes to have a bus system operating by next spring. The Southwest New Brunswick Transit Authority is planning twice-daily routes between all major centres in the county and Saint John.

New service would link Charlotte County communities and Saint John

After years of planning, a Charlotte County group is hoping to have a bus system operating by next spring.

The Southwest New Brunswick Transit Authority is planning twice-daily routes between all major centres in the county and Saint John.

St. Andrews Mayor Stan Choptiany, who chairs the group, estimates it will cost about $400,000 a year to get the service rolling, with about two-thirds of that amount initially subsidized by the provincial government.

"This is a very reasonable request in terms of meeting the needs of a rural community," said Choptiany.

"I think our ridership will increase dramatically and quickly."

Choptiany says among other benefits, the service would result in fewer missed medical appointments, creating efficiencies for the provincial government.

5 years without bus service

Charlotte County lost its bus service in 2011 when Acadian Lines discontinued the run between St. Stephen and Saint John.

The new transit authority hopes a smaller, subsidized, 25-passenger bus operated by a private contractor will succeed.

They've made a very good, compelling case.- Rick Doucet , Minister of Opportunities New Brunswick

Choptiany says an early morning run between St. Andrews, St. George and St. Stephen can carry workers to seafood plants and Ganong Brothers Ltd. The first of two daily runs to the city can then leave from the border community.

Choptiany said he hopes the service can expand to carry parcels and link — perhaps through a taxi service — with the Grand Manan Ferry.

 He estimates a return ticket from St. Stephen to Saint John would cost about $40.

Another planned link is with Charlotte County Dial-A-Ride, which is a non-profit service where volunteers drive patients to medical appointments.

Dana Planetta, the group's executive director, says driving patients an hour or more each way to Saint John puts a strain on the volunteers and on the budget, which reimburses drivers for their fuel use.

"We will try and get them to take the bus for the longest part of the route," Planetta said.

"And we'll arrange picking them up and taking them home from the bus stop."

Planetta serves on the transit authority board and would like to see it operating as soon as possible.

"I hope that we have a big problem in that we need to get a second bus or a bigger bus," she said.

The group has not yet received a commitment from the province, but Liberal MLA Rick Doucet, who represents Fundy-the-Isles-Saint John West and is also the minister of Opportunities New Brunswick, says the business plan is under review.

"They've made a very good, compelling case," said Doucet.

"We have to make sure it is sustainable both in the short term and the long term. [The bus] has to be used."

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