Bus service connecting Lunenburg County and Halifax has been cut back to once a day.
There were three round trips per day when an 18-month pilot project began in September. On March 16, that was reduced to one daily round trip.
Low ridership numbers were the main reason for the change. Aiming for 30 passengers per day, the service was seeing about half that, LighthouseNOW reported in February.
“That just wasn’t going to be sustainable,” Bernie Swann, vice-chair of the Nova Scotia Community Transportation Network, said in an interview with The Signal. “The project was running out of money long before we wanted the project to end.”
Last fall, the province announced it was giving the network more than $385,000 to work with Maritime Bus on the project, which is scheduled to run until Feb. 29, 2020.
The population of Lunenburg County is about 47,000 people, with much of that spread over rural areas.
“There’s just not enough population here,” said Michael Graves, co-ordinator for the United Way for Lunenburg County, a community group. The initial plan of three round trips per day was “a little bit too optimistic,” he added.
Cut too soon?
Stewart Franck is the chair of the Citizens for Public Transit, a group in Lunenburg that advocates for a sustainable, affordable and accessible transit system. He said many people aren’t happy that the service has been cut back so soon. He wonders if a lack of advertising is to blame.
“A lot of residents … still say they knew nothing about it,” said Franck. “People who were aware of the service thought it was long overdue and really welcomed it.”
With the new schedule there is now one bus that leaves Lunenburg at 9:00 a.m. with a return trip departing Halifax at 3:55 p.m. A round trip ticket costs $58.11.
Maritime Bus has produced radio ads for the region to publicize the service. Graves said he believes community groups like United Way and Citizens for Public Transit also need to play a role.
At the end of the summer, numbers will be evaluated again.
“It has to pay for itself or government has to step up,” said Swann.
‘Use it or lose it’
Franck worries that if the project is discontinued, it would be more difficult to get a similar service running in the future.
“I hope we can find that it’s sustainable and keep it going in some form,” said Franck. “We’ve got to use it or lose it.”
Maritime Bus couldn’t be reached for comment.
About the author
Sarah Moore is a journalist from Calgary who is working in Halifax.