HAMPTON - The province's first articulated buses could be ferrying passengers from Quispamsis and Hampton as early as May.
The Saint John Transit Commission hopes to take possession of two 18-metre accordion-style buses in March and add them to the Comex service in both communities come spring to help attract more passengers to the service.
On the Hampton Express, for example, some of the four buses carrying residents into the uptown are full most weekday mornings.
"The buses are full on certain trips and you can't do anything more to drive ridership," said Frank McCarey, general manager of the Saint John Transit Commission. "We prefer to see people have a seat for a trip that long. In fact, everyday now, we have people standing on the service."
The existing buses seat 44 passengers. The two new longer Artic buses will seat 59 - thanks to its bendable section.
"They bend in the middle so you're able to get a vehicle that's over 60-feet-long track in a turn better than a 40-foot bus," McCarey said.
"People look at them and say there are corners that you can't get those around. But any corner we can get a current transit bus around, these buses will go easier."
"That will allow us to drive more ridership," he added. "We haven't done anything to drive more ridership because the buses on the more popular trips are pretty much full."
The two communities will obtain the Artic buses in record speed.
Normally, it takes about 15 months from the time of order to receive the buses, which normally cost $800,000. But Hampton and Quispamsis will obtain their buses in about half the time at a lower cost.
That's because the two buses are manufacturer demonstrator buses that have been in use over the last year.
"One is currently in New York City and we think that will be available in late March," McCarey said. "The other one is back in the plant right now, but it has to be reseated. It was designed for inner city operation to carry a lot of standing passengers. We want to get more seats on them."
Last fall, the two communities applied for money to purchase the buses under the Canada-New Brunswick Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund, federal money set aside in 2004 to fund "green projects" that provide health benefits and improve the quality of the environment.
The goal of the Comex service is to reduce the traffic of 300 vehicles commuting to Saint John and carbon dioxide emissions, as well as eliminate the need for a new parking garage in the city.
Late last year, the province approved $450,000 for each community towards the purchase of the buses. The transit commission is paying the balance of the $600,000 price tags with money from its public transit capital trust fund that it received two years ago from Ottawa.
"So these two buses will be paid for using federal funds," McCarey said.
As well as carrying more passengers, both buses have emission motors that live up to 2007 pollution standards.
"They have a system whereby all the particulate matter from the exhaust is captured and burned off at different intervals and basically vapourized," he said. "In effect, there is very, very little that comes out of these buses in terms of pollution."
Hampton has also added a fourth bus stop in the town to better service its residents. As of Jan. 26, residents can catch a bus outside the Visitor Information Centre housed in the former railway station on Main Street.
"The Town of Hampton felt we should put a stop down by the travel station because a lot of people were walking past and going up to the stop near the Tim Hortons," McCarey said. "They felt that would be just a little more convenient for some of the residents."
The buses will now drive down Main Street after leaving the highway, pick up passengers at the stop near the Tim Hortons, and continue north, turning down Railway Crescent and passing by the blue bins before stopping at the railway station to pick up passengers. It will then loop back onto Main Street, passing by the Irving gas station, before heading up the Hall Road and turning onto William Bell Drive. Bus stops are located on William Bell Drive, across from Service New Brunswick, and further south at the park-and-ride.
Published Monday February 9th, 2009 - Telegraph Journal