Almost three years since the Town of Bridgewater began exploring a public transit system, council is moving to make the bus service permanent.
Council made the decision at a Feb. 25 meeting following the presentation of a report from Jessica McDonald, the director of planning.
“This is big news for our residents and for the riders who have come to rely on transit to get round Bridgewater,” said Mayor David Mitchell in press release.
Mitchell continued on to say that council had repeatedly heard from riders how the service has transformed their lives.
During her presentation to council, McDonald said the impact on townspeople was visible through a growing ridership.
“It has enabled them to get to work, to get to services, to get around other people,” said McDonald.
“Ridership has been increasing. It’s nearly double what it was this time last year. We’ve really blown through those benchmarks we set for ourselves.”
Since being introduced in 2017, more than 37,000 people have used the service.
The town had originally used Yarmouth as a baseline example, expecting roughly 16,000 riders in the first year.
However, by year’s end, more than 27,000 people had used Bridgewater Transit.
McDonald also explained that the service was being delivered at less than the budgeted cost.
The town had budgeted the operational cost at $12.96 per rider, but due to a growing ridership, the service was delivered at $6.03.
But now that the service has been made permanent, council will have explore further budgeting costs.
The two buses currently used by the town were donated by the Halifax Regional Municipality.
“They are aging assets,” explained McDonald. “They are coming toward the end of their life.”
As per the report, the new bus will also have a kneeling feature to make it more accessible for riders. A bus of this type can cost anywhere between $500,000 and $600,000.
Furthermore, the report has laid out budgeting scenarios for potential facilities and staff.
To help offset some of the costs, council has written a letter requesting $400,000 in funding from the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage.
The decision from this request has yet to be made, although several other capital funding options are also available.
Mitchell added the ridership numbers and lower costs made the decision worthwhile.
“It’s more than manageable for us,” he said to council.