Kings Transit asking to cease service after a 76% funding cut
Service 'grossly under-utilized,' says Windsor's Chief Administrative Officer, Louis Coutinho
Buses may soon stop running between Wolfville and Brooklyn, a route which includes the towns of Windsor and much of West Hants.
The Kings Transit Authority has made an application to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, seeking the permission to cease service along that stretch.
The move comes after the transit service reduced bus frequency to cut costs. That dropped ridership from 32,000 to 19,000 annual passengers. In light of low ridership, municipalities that funded the service opted to withdraw their support.
The town of Windsor voted to pull its 29 per cent portion of the route's funding, followed by the municipality of West Hants' decision to cut their 47 per cent share.
"It would financially cripple Kings Transit" if the service were forced to operate without those subsidies, said Stephen Foster, general manger of the Kings Transit Authority, at Monday's public hearing.
About three dozen residents from Windsor and West Hants attended the hearing, with nine presenters explaining the value the bus service provides.
Jacqueline Benedict of Windsor told the hearing chairperson she is visually impaired and that the Kings Transit bus service is the only affordable way for her to travel outside her community.
Service 'grossly under-utilized'
Jocelyn Marchand said there is a double-standard for Nova Scotia transportation, with politicians favouring multi-million-dollar ship projects such as the Bluenose reconstruction and Yarmouth ferry subsidies. Meanwhile, she told the hearing chairperson, this rural bus service is at risk of being cut because the town of Windsor needs to save $61,000 per year.
Windsor's Chief Administrative Officer, Louis Coutinho, responded to the residents' complaints.
The service is "grossly under-utilized," he told the hearing chairperson. Coutinho said 80 per cent of the buses that run are empty. The ones that are full have an average of eight passengers.
He also added that Windsor residents face among the top five highest tax burdens in all of Nova Scotia, and the council was reluctant to impose additional taxes to maintain the bus service.
The chairperson will now review the statements made and documents submitted and will deliver a written decision sometime in the future. Time is limited, however, with Windsor's share of funding set to run out on Sept. 30.