GUYSBOROUGH – It’s been a long road for rural transit proponents in Guysborough County, but the first leg of this journey is almost over. From mid-October to the end of October, public transportation will be a reality in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) and the Town of Mulgrave.
The project began with a consultation process in 2019 to determine what county residents identified as transit needs in their communities and what prices they found affordable. Transit Association of Guysborough (TAG) President Catherine Hartling said The newspaper that they worked to assess needs with surveys completed by residents of Guysborough County.
“Some of them were paying $ 80 to have someone take them to doctor’s appointments,” Hartling said of the poll responses.
The consultations also asked residents about the cost they would be willing to pay for a public transit service and incorporated this into the development of the fare schedule.
Hartling said of the service, “It’s going to be active, once we get started, because people are inquiring now.”
Since these initial consultations, TAG has formed a board of directors and has worked closely with rural transport providers across the province to develop a model for Guysborough County. Madonna van Vonderen, Executive Director of Antigonish Transit, has been an important source of information for the group.
Nancy O’Regan, vice president of TAG, said of van Vonderen’s support: “She knows the big picture of how it’s funded and how it all works provincially, and is helping us. to understand it here.
The biggest challenge, once it’s underway, will be making sure customers understand how the service works, O’Regan said.
“It’s not a taxi service,” she said, “you can’t call at 10 p.m. to be picked up by your neighbor’s party and drive home. It is a reservation service; it needs to be booked in advance, and it’s meant to be structured that way.
“It’s going to be a learning curve for all of us… We don’t know what the demand is, we don’t know what the need will look like, we don’t know what patterns are going to emerge and so we’re all going to use a lot of patience and understanding. during that first year to learn what people need and how we are responding to them. “
When the service is launched, it will provide public transportation to MODG and Mulgrave. O’Regan said it was TAG’s intention: “That in a year, if all goes well and we have a model that works for us, we will expand into the St. Mary’s District. “
When asked what benefits transit service would bring to Guysborough County, O’Regan said, “I think he’s going to add that layer of support that rural residents need, in terms of customer satisfaction. their needs, but also to ensure that we have a fair level of service here for the other regions of the province … This promotes social inclusion and allows people to live in their community and not have to move to an area. nursing home or in Antigonish to be near the services… This ripple effect impacts every other layer of service and care that we have in place.
“It should be noted that the federal government has also recently recognized the importance of public transit in rural communities,” adds van Vonderen. “The Province of Nova Scotia has also recognized the service that rural transportation provides to Nova Scotians. There is a lot of financial support in some ways, but it’s also clear that the impact it can have on a community – keeping people in their homes and giving them access to the services they need just pays off. in all kinds of ways.
TAG executive director Brent Lundrigan said in his latest job coordinating a county-wide meal delivery program that there were several people who would also ask “if I could take them or to medical appointments ”.
At this time, Lundrigan could see the need. He couldn’t offer the help requested, but he said happily, “Here I am now. It is my duty now. At that time, there was no option for people with transportation problems… who live in such rural areas. “
TAG has two vehicles: a Toyota Sienna Hybrid and a 2020 Dodge Caravan adapted for accessibility purposes. The organization is also looking to hire occasional drivers for transit service.
TAG’s office is located at 46 Main Street, Guysborough. The organization can be contacted at [email protected] or by phone at 902-338-0959.
Once in operation, shipping hours will be Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Over the next few weeks, TAG will have a website available under the umbrella site ruralrides.ca.