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Public transit proposal moving forwardNext step involves 'more detailed design'
by Robert Hirtle
From left, Norm Haslett of Citizens for Public Transit (CFPT) discusses the idea of a public transit system for Lunenburg County with Ron Mullins, general manager of Kings' Transit, Kentville Town Councillor Mark Pearl and CFPT member David Walmark.
LUNENBURG - Norm Haslett says 2009 was a pretty good year for the future of public transit in Lunenburg County.
A stalwart supporter of the idea and a linchpin for the local organizing group Citizens for Public Transit, Mr. Haslett was one of a number of presenters who brought an update on the subject to the January edition of the Lunenburg County First! Chowder Club.
Principal guest speaker for the event was Doug Reid, integrated community sustainability co-ordinator for the Municipality of Lunenburg, who outlined what progress has occurred to date with regard to a proposed public transit system.
Also offering their comments were South Shore-St. Margarets MP Gerald Keddy as well as Kentville Town Councillor Mark Pearl and Ron Mullins, general manager of Kings Transit in the Annapolis Valley, a public transportation system that has been serving Kings County for the past 30 years.
Mr. Reid told the audience that with the help of some provincial funding, a consultant was engaged last April to conduct a feasibility study on the issue and the process has now moved "to the concept of seeing transit operations actually coming to existence here in this region.
"That study looked particularly at providing ridership projections and cost estimates for base models and alternative models of service for assessment by the public transit committee," he explained, adding that report was reviewed and reported on to each of the four municipal units that would be affected by the proposal.
"The intent is to move forward into the next phase of design work, to be a more detailed design looking at the particulars of the routing analysis as to … schedules, stops, infrastructure that might need to be changed in terms of shelters."
He said that the committee will also be looking for input from the local public, as present projections are being based on what has occurred elsewhere where certain levels of service are maintained with a similar size population and have not included feedback from residents.
"We also want to look more closely at what would be the proper organizational development, what form of government structure has to take place," he said. "In a region of four municipal units, there has to be a degree of partnership in order to put any sort of transit service together."
The intent of the committee over the next four to six months is to move forward the idea of public transit as a concept "to a more detailed review and assessment stage … so that the four municipal units can understand what the consequences are, especially from a long-term operational sense."
He said that while provincial and federal governments have traditionally played a role in the capital financing of such projects, the long-term day to day operational expenses fall back upon the municipalities.
"Which means affecting the municipal taxpayer … and that decision isn't being taken lightly," he added.
Mr. Keddy said that federal funding for such an initiative would fall on each municipality's annual share of gasoline tax revenues. Those funds have been historically used to help cover the costs of such endeavours as water and waste-water treatment plants and other interests that qualify under the program.
"The final word, however, comes from the municipal leaders and the councils. They have to decide their priorities and where the gas tax money can actually be spent," he said.
Mr. Keddy said he believes public transit for the area to be "a great idea, but the challenge before us … is to try and work in a co-operative manner between all of the interest groups, and to take a portion of those dollars that are headed for sewage and water and other infrastructure needs, into public transit and actually find a route that can be successful.
"There certainly still are some challenges ahead of us."
Mr. Pearl said that during its three decades of operation, Kings Transit has become an essential service in the community, one he likened to being as important as having good roads, clean water and a quality education system.
"And I do believe there is a positive economic spin associated with municipal transit," he said. "I think the merchants of our town are very pleased we are able to bring people from the outlying areas in to shop in their stores. That's an integral part of their business plan. But we're also able to bring people to the service centres of our community, the hospitals, the law office, the grocery stores."
The consultant's report on public transit can be viewed at http://www.transitlunenburg.ca.
Following the luncheon, chowder club's board of directors voted to donate $500 to Canadian Red Cross for the Haitian earthquake relief efforts.
posted on 01/26/10
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