P.E.I. government, municipalities spend close to $4 million on new transit buses
Fleet serving Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall grows by eight vehicles
For the first time in its young history, T3 Transit has new public transit buses on the road in Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall.
Representatives from the federal and provincial governments, as well as the three municipalities, attended a news conference in Charlottetown on Thursday to announce that eight new buses have been purchased for the public service which launched in 2005.
Two 40-foot buses, four 35-foot buses and two mini-buses have been purchased for close to $4 million.
“This is a very significant day in the greater Charlottetown area,’’ T3 Transit owner Mike Cassidy told The Guardian following the press conference. “T3 Transit has just launched, for the first time ever, six brand-new, full-sized diesel buses and two mini-buses to its fleet. It is the first (purchase of) what we would call new state-of-the-art equipment.’’
T3 Transit has purchased used buses from other jurisdictions in Canada as well as buses that had been retrofitted, but this is the first time the public service will put new rigs on the street.
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, T3 Transit had a fleet of 14 buses. However, some of them are reaching the end of their useful life. Cassidy expects to retire five or six buses.
He said the new buses all come with a warranty which will reduce the cost of maintaining the fleet.
The buses feature the SmartRider system, which provides a computer-controlled motion reduction system offering a smoother ride for passengers, new fareboxes, free Wi-Fi, security cameras, automatic vehicle location software and bike racks.
The buses are fully accessible with both kneeling and ramp extension capability to ensure accessibility to users. The vehicles are also equipped with destination signs, which allow route descriptions to be displayed on the exterior screens.
Bob Foster of Charlottetown, a senior citizen who is an avid transit user, said the news means he’s even more eager to take the bus.
“Depending on the weather, I take the bus at least once a day, sometimes twice,’’ said Foster, who stopped by the press conference outside Charlottetown City Hall to take a look at two of the new buses.
“About two-and-a-half years ago I got into the routine of taking the bus. I go to the library every day. … It just drops me right off at the library.’’
Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown said the service has come a long way from a four-bus route system in 2005.
“It has been a great success story since then and will continue to be because of this collaboration with the province, the federal government and the three communities in the capital region,’’ Brown said.
However, there have been bumps in the road.
T3 Transit was averaging 3,000 passenger fares per day before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. Inside one month, ridership dropped to 450 fares a day.
“Being in the bus business, you have to have nerves of steel,’’ said Malpeque MP Wayne Easter, representing the federal government at the announcement, referring to the effects public health restrictions had on the service.
Cassidy said the service bounced back quickly, though. Ridership jumped to 600 daily fares in May and 750 per day by August. On April 28, 1,640 people took the bus.
The province has confidence in public transit.
Transportation Minister James Aylward said Thursday in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the province is currently waiting on a consultant’s report that is looking at the feasibility of servicing rural P.E.I.
“Right now, we have a consultant engaged … talking to municipalities and looking at what, potentially, a rural transit could look like,’’ Aylward said. “(That includes looking at) everything from the size of the transit vehicles, fee structures, schedules (and) locations.’’
The report is due by the end of June.
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