New Brunswick

Charlotte County gets public transit to Saint John this fall

Brian Gallant announced $500,000 in funding for a public transit system to Saint John from St. Stephen.

New Brunswick government to put $500,000 over 2 years into twice-a-day, round-trip bus service

Stan Choptiany, president of the Southwest New Brunswick Transit Authority, speaks at the announcement of a $500,000 boost to Rural Lynx. (Ben Silcox/CBC)

The New Brunswick government is helping kick-start the Rural Lynx bus system in Charlotte County, so it can provide public transit from St. Stephen to Saint John daily starting this fall. 

The province will put $500,000 over two years into the project, which will function in a partnership with Maritime Bus, which does not already offer service to the area.

"It's not just a bus that runs," Stan Choptiany, the president of the Southeast New Brunswick Transit Authority, said at the announcement Thursday.

"It's a bus that delivers opportunities, it delivers services, it delivers growth potential, it delivers a future for our community."

The transit authority will run the service, which will consist of two round trips a day between Saint John and St. Stephen.

The authority has been pushing for the project since Acadian Lines dropped the last public service from St. Stephen to Saint John in 2011.

Linking communities

The new service would run seven days a week and stop in Saint Andrews, St. George and Pennfield. 

After almost five years of work, we're here, and we've made it.- Stan Choptiany

The vehicle will be owned by Maritime Bus and also offer courier service among the communities.

Part of Choptiany's rationale when lobbying the government for the bus service was that it would give Charlotte County residents better access to services in Saint John.

These include health services not available in rural New Brunswick and access to Saint John courts, which some  Charlotte County residents have needed since the province closed the courthouse in St. Stephen.

Choptiany said he is glad the lobbying met with results.

"After almost five years of work, we're here, and we've made it," he said.

Brian Gallant announced $500,000 for public transit from St. Stephen to Saint John but said people will have to make use of the service. (Ben Silcox/CBC)

Premier Brian Gallant, who announced the money for the authority in St. Stephen, said the bus will provide unique opportunities for people at both ends of the route.

"If we want people to do the jobs in the region, then we need to give them the transportation that they deserve and that they need," Gallant said. "With this project, you're going to be able to live in Saint John, and maybe come work in St. Stephen at the Ganong factory.

"You're going to be able to live in St. Stephen and maybe go work at the IBM IT department in Saint John."

Linking transportation

Dana Planetta, executive director of Charlotte County's Dial-a-Ride, said the new bus route will take a weight off the service's shoulders, and people relying on Dial-a-Ride to go long distances can now take a bus.

"For the last 12 years we've been taking people to doctor appointments and things like that locally, and the odd one to Saint John," Planetta said. "It's going to take a big load off of us — we're going to be taking people from rural areas and dropping them off at the bus."

A Maritime Bus will be used for public transportation twice a day between Stephen and Saint John starting this fall. (Ben Silcox/CBC)

But beyond the occasional doctor's appointment, she said, the new bus will be useful for people like her who want to be connected to Saint John while living in St. Stephen.

"I would take it — probably in the winter," she said. "I'm a little nervous driving long distances in the winter. I'd feel really comfortable if I wanted to go off shopping and then I don't have to worry."

Pilot project

The sustainability of the bus route will rest on how much it is used, Gallant said.

"The first thing that we're going to want to see is ridership," he said. "This is crucial. There is no doubt ... that the services we are going to be providing are needed. But now we've got to make sure people are aware of them."

Planetta added she will be encouraging Charlotte County residents to make taking the bus a part of their lives to ensure it remains available.

"This is going to be wonderful, but please use it."