Nova Scotia

International students drive up ridership at Transit Cape Breton

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality's transit service is growing thanks to an influx of international students at the local university.

CBRM Transit was on the chopping block four years ago; now it needs more buses, mechanics and drivers

CBRM Transit is going through some growing pains after nearly getting the axe four years ago. (George Mortimer/CBC)

It was only four years ago that Cape Breton Regional Municipality's transit service was on the chopping block.

Citizens were complaining about the lack of routes, lack of buses and lack of Sunday service.

The municipality was facing budget shortfalls and council was faced with making cuts.

This week, CBRM council heard the transit system has turned around, mostly thanks to the large number of international students at Cape Breton University.

Cape Breton University. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Transit manager Kathy Donovan said the municipality has added buses, routes and Sunday service in the busy corridor between Glace Bay and Sydney, which includes the university.

"Like council said, it was only some short years ago that they were considering getting rid of transit altogether, because of such low numbers, but now our buses are three-quarters full or full for the majority of the day," she said.

Ridership is up 80 per cent and the university has helped with the purchase of two buses to accommodate students, said Donovan.

The increase in service has meant more people are using transit because it's more accessible.

"It is mostly the result of the influx of international students," Donovan said. "However, we are seeing an increase in local ridership. We feel, though, that is also directly related to the international students as it's reducing the stigma attached to driving bus, so overall we're seeing ridership increase in the municipality."

Donovan gave council an overview of route changes implemented in the last year.

Most councillors were pleased with the increases in ridership and service, although a few asked about further improvements.

Donovan said with more resources, the transit service could add buses or routes in various neighbourhoods and communities.

Handi-Trans help needed

She also said the Handi-Trans service needs more funding, because requests for service "continue to be significantly higher" than can be provided.

With the growth in ridership, the transit service is now in need of more buses, more mechanics, more drivers and larger facilities, said Donovan.

CBRM Transit will be approaching council with a request for more money during budget talks in the new year, she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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