Fullerton speaks out in support of Plan B, says town should exit from public transit
Cornwall Mayor Barney Fullerton has shown on a number of occasions that he isn’t shy about tackling difficult issues. The outspoken mayor was one of a very few who applauded the construction of the Plan B Highway through the Bonshaw Hills and went out of his way to publicly thank Transportation Minister Robert Vessey for the successful completion of the $20-million project. The mayor suggested the new highway will benefit motorists, truck drivers, tourists, his town and the province as a whole.
Mr. Fullerton was also quick to suggest the next major project involving P.E.I. roadwork should be a Trans-Canada Highway bypass around Cornwall. The project has been discussed for a number of years but costs and land assembly have been major stumbling blocks. The town has steadily grown in size and so has traffic flow, increasing the pressure that something be done.
The idea of a bypass has always caused apprehension among many businesses which throng the centre of town on both sides of the highway. A bypass would divert most traffic around the town and those same merchants fear they would lose a lot of shoppers.
Mr. Fullerton believes smoother traffic flow and increased safety for residents trump those business concerns. The mayor must believe most business traffic and customers originate within the town and surrounding areas, and that merchants have little to fear. He’d like to see a Main Street going through town, carrying mostly local traffic, and not a TCH.
Now the mayor has tackled another thorny issue - public transit. After five years of the T3 system with Charlottetown and Stratford, Mr. Fullerton has declared the experiment a failure and he wants Cornwall to pull out. The town never really did warm up to the idea of public transit and constantly quibbled about building bus shelters because of the costs involved and the spectre of wasted money should Cornwall pull out of the integrated metro transit system.
Maybe part of the reason public transit never warmed up to the town, and vice versa, was that elected officials always publicly squabbled about the issue. So it comes as no surprise there has been a steady decline in riders using the system.
Mr. Fullerton says Cornwall is a bedroom community for Charlottetown, with mostly single-family dwellings and cars in the driveway. The mayor asserts he has to look after taxpayers’ money and public transit is simply not a good bang for public money. Cornwall pays $75,000 annually into the T3 system.
Fullerton said one way to boost bus numbers is to charge civil servants to park at the provincial government buildings in Charlottetown. That would generate immediate ridership if parking was more expensive than the bus.
Establishing a park-and-go area in Cornwall would also make it more convenient for residents who don’t want to walk long distances to a bus stop and wait in the cold. The town will just have to decide on its priorities.
It was ironic that almost the day after Mr. Fullerton went public about his transit concerns, Charlottetown was bragging about setting a new record for passenger fares. On Friday, Nov. 28, the T3 service recorded 1,730 passengers for the day and presumably 75 fares or so involved the Cornwall buses.
The previous single-day record was set Sept. 24, 2012, with 1,677 passenger fares serviced, a long way from the 75 passenger fares when the service opened in Sept. 2005.
It takes time for acceptance and use to build for public transit. Unfortunately, it appears that Cornwall’s mayor feels that both have run out in his town.