As Hantsport, Windsor, and West Hants councils continue to look for ways to shave costs and reduce unnecessary expenditures, it appears the region's bus service may wind up on the chopping block.
During a joint council meeting in January, the overwhelming impression was that paying for Kings Transit is a costly endeavour — and one that, at the very least, needs to be adjusted to better suit the area's needs.
At the meeting, Town of Windsor Coun. Scott Geddes suggested it would be cheaper to pay for people to take cabs then it would be to continue to subsidize Kings Transit.
It's certainly not a practical suggestion, but it does spark conversation.
While subsidizing the service to the tune that we currently are is not ideal — last year Hantsport chipped in $30,000 while Windsor and West Hants paid the lion's share; $115,200 and $187,581 respectively — providing cost-effective, reliable transportation is integral to a community looking to grow and prosper.
It’s evident the status quo is not working. We must examine what can be done to better streamline the service, as well as why more people are not taking advantage of the bus. After all, it is extremely affordable. The cost of a one-way trip for an adult on Kings Transit from Brooklyn to Digby is just $3.50. With the current cost of fuel, that's a steal.
As such, it's puzzling why the general public, the same public that lobbied to have a regional bus service make stops here in the first place, is not supporting it more.
Although ridership has increased since West Hants joined the Kings Transit Authority in the mid-2000s, it hasn't really caught on. At least, not like it should. The bus is often spotted travelling through town with more empty seats than filled ones.
Unlike larger communities, taking the bus is not second nature here. Kings Transit is fighting an uphill battle when it comes to changing people's mindsets about public transportation.
Taking the bus is practical when you have time to get from Point A to Point B. For some riders, it's a lifeline — a way to stay connected and make it to appointments. For others, it's a chance to reduce their carbon footprint, meet like-minded individuals, or shift the responsibility and stress of driving to someone else.
So what's the solution? Without better marketing and buy-in from the community, a bus service like this will not be sustainable much longer. Councils won't be able to justify the cost.
Unless we want another service to disappear — people still lament the loss of commuter trains — we need to make the service a viable option.
The acting general manager of the transit authority, Stephen Foster, seems open to options, including reducing runs, changing hours, and finding other measures to cut down on operating costs.
Kings Transit's future in the area is in our hands. If it's something we see as important, it's time to speak up, speak out, and, perhaps most importantly, use it.