CORNER BROOK — Corner Brook Coun. Gary Kelly says the city has to think outside the norm in deciding the future of its public transit service.
A primary suggestion of his is implementing a free system, resembling what is done in Halifax, N.S. with “Free Rides Everywhere Downtown. He said he was intrigued by this service, a partnership of the Metro Transit and the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, when he was a resident of Nova Scotia.
“I wouldn’t mind exploring that,” Kelly said. “Perhaps we cut back on the service, but make it free for core areas of the city.
“This is just brainstorming, but maybe we don’t have any bus stops and, to make it more convenient, you jump on and off the bus wherever you want.”
Free rides in Halifax is a summer service, which also partners with sponsors.
One of the primary concerns that has been expressed by the city since its one-year trial to increase ridership ended is the high subsidy per rider breakdown during certain times. Offering free rides would certainly increase the cost per ride, given no revenue is flowing back. However, Kelly said a city should be willing to pay a subsidy of a certain amount to provide public transportation.
The councillor is comfortable with the city paying about $400,000 per year as a transit subsidy.
“I feel as though we should try our level best to ensure we have some form of public transportation available in the city of Corner Brook,” he said.
Kelly said maybe the service is provided by vans or some version of more routes but less frequency or more frequency but less routes to help maintain the cost.
He acknowledges it will be hard to reach all users at an optimal level, but said that can’t be a reason to end the service.
“I think we have to do something creative here, to think outside the box, to keep some form of public transit in place in Corner Brook,” he said.
He also feels it is important to continue to engage the public in the ultimate decision of what happens with public transit.