Le potentiel pour les transports en commun au Nouveau-
Brunswick 

Cet article par Stephanie Sodero examine les bienfaits de l’usage des transports en commun et propose comment rendre le transport en commun, surtout par autobus, plus viable dans les communautés du Nouveau-
Brunswick. 

En étudiant les options, les bienfaits et les nouvelles idées des gens sur comment améliorer les transports en commun, on peut commencer à prendre de l’avant.

 

       

The Potential for
Mass Transit
 
in New Brunswick

Stephanie Sodero
T.I.C (Transportation Issues Committee, 
of the Ecology Action Centre, Halifax, NS)

February 2000

 

he issue of mass transit in New Brunswick may, at first, seem to be an oxymoron, as viable mass transit systems are popularly associated with high density urban centres. However, mass transit does not require particularly dense or populous conditions to be viable, and even where intra-community mass transit is not practical, inter-community mass transit can still provide an attractive option. This article will look at the benefits of mass transit use and proposes how mass transit, in particular bus travel, can be made more viable in New Brunswick communities.


(photo: NBEN-RENB)

Mass transit comes in several modes: bus, train, high speed light rail, subway and ferry. The purpose of mass transit is to move people, not their cars, from one point to another. For every unit of mass transit in use, a corresponding number of private automobiles could be left at home. For example, a bus carrying only 15 people means that as many as fifteen cars have been left at home.

The benefits of mass transit are both numerous and wide-ranging. Decreases in air pollution, noise pollution, and traffic all accompany increases in mass transit use. Changes in the climate and global warming are also generally believed to decrease as fewer cars are burning greenhouse gas-forming carbon dioxide. As well, with fewer cars in use there is less need to accommodate them in the community. For example, spacious parking lots occupying valuable central business district (CBD) land can be reclaimed for use by new businesses or for parks.

There are other benefits reaped directly in the form of improved human health. Public transit patrons tend to get more exercise because they have to walk to the pick-up points and from the drop-off points. As well, public transit users may benefit from the increased social interaction with fellow community members. This may be most important to community members who use the transit system out of necessity, either because they can not drive (i.e., the elderly, children, the physically and mentally challenged) or they do not own a car (i.e., the poor).


(photo: Victoria Transit)

The main mass transit mediums used in New Brunswick are buses and trains. Buses are used in both inter- and intra-community travel, while trains provide an inter- community service. Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton all have intra-community bus systems. Unfortunately, the quality of these systems is questionable due to the chicken- egg dilemma posed by mass transit systems. This dilemma refers to the fact that community members are not apt to use a transit system unless it is of high quality, but the mass transit providers can not afford to provide a high quality system until it has the financial support of a large number of users.

The characteristics of a viable and popular mass transit system are two-fold: a dependable, frequent pick-up schedule and several pick-up/drop-off points throughout the community. The question is how can community transit providers offer this level of service when they do not enjoy a large ridership? The answer for Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton is relatively simple. All three of these cities can take advantage of the annual influx of university students by charging each student a bus fee as part of their tuition. In exchange for this fee (the amount of which would have to be calculated for each city, but would be approximately $50.00) students would receive a pass that would enable them to ride on all city buses at any time for the entire school year.

This system increases the mobility of university students, allowing them to explore more widely and easily their university community. A special university route could be established that stops at various campus and town destinations. This may be particularly attractive to businesses that are near the bus route. Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario has successfully adopted this idea.

This system would give transit providers the initial revenue needed to increase the number of stops and routes, and would lower the cost of transit use for the rest of the community. Other New Brunswick communities that do not have universities, but do have a large industry base, could also use such a single fee payment system to start mass transit in their community.

========================
"All three of these cities can take advantage of the annual influx
of university students by charging
each student a bus fee as part
of their tuition..."
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Smaller, more disparate communities may not be able to establish such a system. In their cases, mass transit may not be a practical idea, as the population is either simply too disparate or the town too small to necessitate mass transit. However, this does not exclude the possibility for increased inter-community mass transit. Presently, buses and train travel between New Brunswick communities. Reasons for not using inter-community transit are similar to the reasons given for not using intra-community transit: the infrequency of the schedule and limited pick-up/drop-off points. Another concern is not having a car to use upon arrival at one’s destination. This problem can be resolved fairly easily; the traveler can use either the intra-community transit system, rent a car, or depend on a friend or family member.

Inter-community transit use could be bolstered simply through an advertisement campaign that illustrates the ease of mass transit use. Such advantages as being able to work or sleep on the trip, decreased risk of accident and hence decreased insurance rates, increased employment of drivers and mechanics, and the environmental benefits of mass transit use could all be pointed out. Less expensive weekend fares, commuter specials, family rates and frequent user points could also help bolster inter- community mass transit use.

These options for encouraging both intra- and inter-community mass transit use are not costly or difficult. The challenge is to pair the changing of people’s perceptions of public transit use with actual improvements in the quality of mass transit. Mass transit in New Brunswick is considered, without basis, an oxymoron. However, simple changes such as bus fare as part of university tuition, and advertising the ease of inter-community bus travel can make mass transit appear to be the most obvious and practical way to move forward.