Council gives go-ahead:Transit system by fall
Published Friday August 1st, 2008
by Darcey McLaughlin
People in Miramichi will soon have a new way to get around town. The city has given final approval for the creation of a public transit system.
City economics development officer Jeff MacTavish said he is hoping to have the system running by fall.
The approval came at a special Finance and Administration Committee meeting Tuesday night. It was ratified at a special council meeting the same night.
Coun. Derek Burchill said the system is being launched at a time when people are looking for alternative ways to get around.
"I know this has been in the works for a while now … it seems that in this day of high cost of travel and aging population and so on, that there very well may be quite a need for the system. I understand the cost to the city to operate it first year would be one cent on the tax rate, which is around $100,000," he said. "And I also understand at any given point in time we can opt out of it," he said.
The city has received capital funding from the province and has funding available from several other sources. The system will also depend heavily on revenue from advertising, which Coun. Rupert Bernard said could eliminate any costs to the city .
"It appears as though the $95,000 cost to the city in the first year of operation may very well be called a worst case scenario," Bernard said. "It is also my understanding that funding will also be provided to erect some bus shelters and benches and there is a significant amount of projected advertising revenue as a result of those ... If 71 per cent of all the ads are sold, it would be a $36,000 surplus. I actually believe we'll end up somewhere in the middle."
Coun. Robert Trevors said he thinks the service is important, but he's concerned about the cost in the future.
"The numbers, the figures and the partners that we have right now are probably the reason I'm going to support this motion, because we want to really strive at getting citizens of this city, and hopefully the developers of this city, the opportunity to attract new business, new customers," he said. "I know in two years time that we'll be sitting here discussing this, because I'm really concerned about the cost after that."
Meeting chair Mike McCoombs also raised concerns over cost.
"It's a little concerning we're taking on new endeavors here when we're not sure where we're going in the next year or so and what services we may have to curtail. The other thing is, we're going to have to look at our budgetary process very closely … because we're not sure exactly what we have to spend with," he said.
Coun. Joan Cripps raised concerns about the schedule, the number of buses and the placement of bus stops and said careful consideration must be given to those details. However, overall, she said, she is in favour of the system because it will be a benefit to seniors.
Coun. Michael (Tanker) Malley agreed with Cripps that seniors will benefit from the system.
"This is a worthwhile venture. It provides a service to our citizens, our seniors especially who are tied to their homes, who would like to get out to the malls and get to the doctor's appointment. Also to our citizens in general where we see the high cost of fuel rising each and every day and it's going to continue to rise," he said. "I've talked to a lot of our seniors and they're telling me it's long overdue."
But, Malley warned, it is up to the citizens to ensure the system is a success.
"You either use it, or lose it," Malley said.
While the primary reason for the service is to help people move around, Burchill told council, there are other benefits to having the system.
"There are a number of corporations and companies out there that will consider different municipalities to invest in and one of the qualifications is whether the city or municipality has a transit system. [There is one company] we're aware of that may come here with as many as 600 employees, but if we don't have a transit system, we wouldn't be in the running for it," he said.
The transit system will operate separately from the city and employees will not become union members. Plans call for a staff consisting of a manager, an administrative assistant, four full-time drivers and four part-time drivers.