Barney Fullerton says there has been a steady decline in riders using the system
© Nigel Armstrong
Cornwall Mayor Barney Fullerton, left, looks at notes as Councillor Marlene Hunt, right, speaks in this Guardian file photo.
Cornwall Mayor Barney Fullerton wants to pull out of the T3 transit system.
“For 2013, every month has been lower than it has been the last four years,” said Fullerton at the last council meeting, referring to the daily average number of riders on the Cornwall bus runs.
He said there has been a steady decline for the past three years. In October, for example, the daily rider average was 89 in 2010, then 77 the next year, 67 last year and 65 this year.
A public meeting in June on how to improve transit in Cornwall drew about a dozen residents, he said.
“The residents of this town are not interested in supporting transit,” said Fullerton.
“We have a population of 5,000 people here and the majority of them live in single-family dwellings and the driveway is full of cars,” he said.
That was a point echoed by Coun. Irene Dawson, who said the town has done little to nothing to encourage duplex or apartment developments, which in turn tend to support transit.
“I know it’s a public service and I know public services don’t make money but this is going backwards,” said Fullerton. “It’s not going forwards.
“I’m not against transit, but I’m the custodian of the ratepayers’ money,” he said. “I don’t think they are getting good value for their money.”
Cornwall pays $75,000 into the T3 transit system with more costs coming when a planned bus-replacement capital program kicks in.
Fullerton has his own idea on boosting transit numbers — charge civil servants to park at the government office complex by Victoria Park in Charlottetown.
He’s thinking maybe $100 a month. That would generate some revenue plus the bus, with a monthly pass of $65, would be full.
“I don’t see the town being able to afford this transit system,” he said, of Cornwall’s role.
“The interest in this town is not here.”
“There is nobody working to make it go forward,” said Coun. Parker Beer.
Not so, said Fullerton, a Cornwall committee has been trying to increase ridership.
More needs to be done, said Coun. Marlene Hunt.
There has to be a park-and-go area, and a clear invitation to residents in surrounding communities and rural areas to join the Cornwall transit runs, said Hunt.
The service has funding from the province and the federal government so everyone is paying for it, she said.
The park-and-go area was also supported by Beer, who said residents don’t want to walk long distances to a bus stop and wait in the cold.
Hunt said bus shelters are about to be installed in Cornwall, but just two of them and more are needed.
“It does take time,” said Hunt. “It takes time to grow it. This is brand new. It’s going to take a generation before transit really catches on.
“We spend almost a million dollars on recreation with our facilities and it’s worth every penny, but not everybody goes to it,” said Hunt.
“It’s the same with transit.”
Coun. Peter Meggs said he is the only member of council who regularly uses the bus.
“It’s all about building your customer base,” said Meggs.
“We know we are serving the people that are riding the bus. What should our benchmark be? If it’s full with 20 people consistently, how can we just cut that off?”