Kings Transit may be forced to run empty buses along abandoned route
Buses may run without passengers after transit service told residents not to expect buses past Sept. 30
In a strange set of circumstances, Kings Transit Authority may be forced to take huge financial losses driving empty buses through rural Nova Scotia.
The authority operates a long-distance rural bus service through the Annapolis Valley. Service to the final 40-kilometre stretch, between Wolfville and Brooklyn, is scheduled to end Sept. 30.
The service cut comes after the town of Windsor and the municipality of West Hants pulled their subsidies. That funding totalled 76 per cent of the route's operating costs.
The funding from Windsor will end Sept. 30 and from West Hants shortly after. Each municipality gave Kings Transit at least six months notice of their intentions to cut their funding.
In order to stop the service, the bus company needed permission from the regulator, Nova Scotia's Utility and Review Board (UARB).
Kings Transit Authority made an application to cease service, but is still awaiting approval.
On Sept. 14, the UARB heard from residents and stakeholders about Kings Transit's application to cut service. The board must review and consider all testimony and comments made during that public hearing before issuing a decision.
That means, Kings Transit may find itself in an odd predicament.
As of Thursday, it will be legally required to run presumably-empty buses — since residents have been told not to expect them after Sept. 30 — along a route which provides zero revenue.
Rules outlined by the UARB are clear: bus companies cannot unilaterally decide to change their licensing agreement.
"The carrier is expected to continue service until the decision is released," said Paul Allen, executive director of the UARB.
Even though the board requested input from the public, most of the opposition to the service cut has come at the very end of the process. Dozens of residents attended the Sept. 14 public hearing to voice their dissent.
Speaking at that time, Stephen Foster, general manager for the Kings Transit Authority, explained "it would financially cripple Kings Transit" to permanently operate the Wolfville to Brooklyn route without municipal subsidies.