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
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
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
student a bus fee as part
of their tuition..."
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.