Fredericton parks plan to test express bus on Regent Street

7694602-5725article by Stephen Llewellyn, The Daily Gleaner
photo: The Daily Gleaner Archive

“This is particularly important for those living in poverty or people living on fixed income” – David Coon

The idea of testing an express bus on Regent Street in Fredericton has been parked for now.

The call for a bus that runs up and down Regent Street frequently came from New Brunswick Green Party leader David Coon last fall.

Coon, who is also the MLA for Fredericton South, said his constituents are telling him that the city transit service doesn’t get them where they need to go.

“This is particularly important for those living in poverty or people living on fixed income,” he told the committee when he appeared before it last fall.

The Fredericton transit system uses a hub and spoke arrangement based at Kings Place.

Darren Charters, Fredericton transit manager, told the transportation committee this week that a six-month pilot to test an all-day express bus on Regent Street would cost $400,000.

“We would require two news buses on that type of a route,” he said. “We would have to hire two new operators to operate that even in a pilot format.”

“We’re looking at about $2,500 a day.”

Charters said the fastest such an express bus could run would be every 15 minutes because that is how long it takes a bus to get from Kings Place to the top of Regent Street while making regular stops.

He said his department is not recommending such a pilot project because of the major construction work that is planned for the intersection of Regent and Prospect streets this summer.

That $3-million construction project is going to completely rebuild and widen that intersection between June 1 and Aug. 31.

In addition, the provincial government is planning to tear down the Regent Street overpass and completely replace it with a taller and wider bridge this summer at a cost of $5 million.

“Most folks know that is going to be really congested up there,” said Charters. “It would probably be unwise to even attempt a pilot on Regent Street.”

He said the transit department is going to be looking at ways to get around the construction congestion. He said transit will learn a lot about getting back and forth between the mall and downtown during construction work.

Coun. John MacDermid, chairman of the committee, agreed with Charters’ assessment.

“In 2016 due to the construction nothing is going to be normal on the south side when it comes to moving people around,” he said.

Coun. Randy Dickinson also agreed and asked if the transit department is still planning to do an overall review of transit in Fredericton, especially when it comes to accessibility.

Charters said the focus of the transit department in 2016 is the accessibility of transit routes.

The transit department has been working with Mobility New Brunswick to develop a plan to look at accessible fixed route service in the city, he said.

That might mean a pilot project or changes to just one route, said Charters.

The other focus for transit this year is technology, said the transit manager.

“We’d like to have on-board technology where we can collect data and then with that data we can analyze our system a lot better,” he said.

Dickinson asked if there would be public engagement during those two projects.

Charters said public feedback would be critical to the process.