Islanders asked to share their barriers to using public transit
'We're trying to start a community conversation around this'
Ten Days for Transit, an organization consisting of a number of community organizations, is asking Islanders to share the barriers they experience when trying to use public transit in the province.
The organization is a partnership with the Cooper Institute, an education and community development centre, in Charlottetown.
"We're trying to start a community conversation around this," said Shelby Downe, a program co-ordinator at the Cooper Institute. "So rather than just talking with policymakers, we want to make sure that the community knows that it's about them, and for them, [and] that they have a say in it. We're hoping to amplify their voices."
The organization has been running an online survey to get feedback from the community.
It has also placed bingo cards on buses to encourage people to use the bus more, and then submit their card with feedback on how the system could be better. The bingo card and survey run until Oct. 28.
"I think that there's kind of an urgency happening around community issues and climate issues," Downe said.
The concerns so far range from people worried about how transfers between Stratford and Cornwall work, to the ability to access public transportation if someone lives outside of the Charlottetown area, and other accessibility issues, said Downe.
"We've been hearing that the accessibility concerns, especially for people with physical disabilities, are quite common. It's quite difficult to, first of all, find information about the accessibility of the buses, and in some cases they just aren't there."
To ease some of those barriers, the group reached out to T3 Transit to set up a bus tour on Saturday, hoping to increase their knowledge of the routes, and the accessible features on the bus.
"The best way to get a new customer is to have a show-and-tell, to have a demo, to be able to make the new customer feel comfortable," said Mike Cassidy, owner of T3 Transit.
"The excitement of the call from Ten Days for Transit was that people have an interest. They want our system. There is a need. And even though it's COVID-19, people still have to travel. There's still essential things that you need to do," said Cassidy.
While there has been a lot of advocacy on P.E.I. in terms of emissions and electrifying public transit, said Downe, she said it's important that the bus system works for people first.
"Our committee believes that this won't be successful unless transit is accessible and available for all," she said.
Rural transportation barriers
The other concern the group has been hearing is the availability of public transit in more rural parts of the province, said Downe.
"Obviously, there are no routes in the rural areas of P.E.I., so there are concerns about that as well," said Downe.
"That's part of our goal here, to figure out what needs to happen to make transit Island-wide."
Cassidy said T3 Transit has been thinking about how it can best serve more rural areas, but it might not look the same as it does in the Charlottetown area. He said the company needs to think about what kind of ridership is needed to support those buses running, said Cassidy.
"Our job would be to understand the need, the frequency, number of buses and making sure there's enough ridership to support the service. And that is the key."
Downe agrees that any transit solution for rural P.E.I. wouldn't look the same as it does in the Charlottetown area.
Once the Ten Days campaign is over, the group will compile what it heard from Islanders and take it to cities and companies.