Nfld. & Labrador

We don't ride Metrobus, but you should, candidates say

The frontrunners for the St. John's mayoralty admit they do not often ride a Metrobus — but they want a better public transportation system for the northeast Avalon.

Transit, poor planning top issues at municipal debate involving 3 communities

Sheilagh O'Leary and Dennis O'Keefe took part in a debate in St. John's on Tuesday night. (CBC )

The frontrunners for the St. John's mayoralty admitted during a debate they do not often ride a Metrobus — but they want a better public transportation system for the northeast Avalon.

"The last time I rode on a Metrobus was 2001 ... Before that, in the 1960s," Dennis O'Keefe, the incumbent mayor, told a forum in St. John's on Tuesday night when he was asked to say when he last used the bus.

"I have to say, I'm not a common rider, I will admit to that," said Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary, who agreed with O'Keefe that a plan is needed to get more people on buses in and out of the city. [Challenger Geoff Chaulk did not attend the debate.]

Mayoral candidates in the Sept. 24 election from St. John's, Paradise and Conception Bay South took part in the debate, which was sponsored by the St. John's Board of Trade and the provincial chapter of the Canadian Home Builders' Association.

Dan Bobbett, who is running for mayor in Paradise, likes the idea of a Metrobus expansion that served commuters in towns outside the capital.

"I think there should be direct routes taking you from, say, C.B.S., through Paradise, and take them to the major locations, like Avalon Mall or the Village mall," he said.

C.B.S. Mayor Woodrow French said planners should look to bigger centres like Toronto for regional transit models.

"We've got a lot of space out there," said French.

"Why can't we put in a tramway? Why can't we do something like that, which is going to get people into St. John's within half an hour?"

All the candidates agreed that there needs to be more regional co-operation on transit and other issues, including the economy, although O'Keefe said he would like to see something more official.

"One of the biggest disappointments in my term of office currently is the lack of a regional plan, and that is the responsibility of [the Department of] Municipal Affairs," he said.

"It's been delayed and delayed and delayed," said O'Keefe, adding that individual municipal plans should fall under the guidelines of a larger regional plan.