Changes coming for bus riders

Saint John Transit New directional routing system could begin in August

SAINT JOHN - If everything goes as planned, citizens will see major changes to the city's bus services in August.

                                                  

Saint John Transit - along with the parking commission - hope to have several new services this summer including four new park-and-ride locations, new bus routes and wireless Internet connections on city buses.

Frank McCarey, general manager of Saint John Transit, says the organization was finalizing details of the proposed new routes with its union Tuesday and hopes to introduce the new service Aug. 2.

"It's very ambitious to introduce (revised routes) Aug. 2, but we want to get it done before the start of the school year," McCarey said.

The review of the current routes has been going on for the past couple of months and the changes would result in a new directional routing system.

"Right now our main routes are east to west and the hospital to King's Square," he said. "We're looking at a triangular service that would be Lancaster Mall through East Saint John direct to the (Saint John Regional) hospital so you wouldn't have to change buses."

The primary hubs of the triangular service would be located at Lancaster Mall and McAllister Place. The city received $210,000 through a federal grant to review the bus routes.

City buses are currently equipped with global positioning systems and will soon be upgraded with wireless Internet connections. McCarey said the company that Saint John Transit is using for the GPS service - Grey Island Systems Inc. - has an upgrade allowing buses to have wireless Internet access.

"We'll be changing them all out for new ones," the general manager said. "We expect those units to be here soon and there's no charge to upgrade.

"We're targeting that system to go live towards the end of August."

Saint John Transit is also targeting August to introduce a first in the city. McCarey hopes to have the first park-and-ride services - similar to the Comex program in the outlying areas - up and running. The public transportation provider is working with the Saint John Parking Commission to find space for potential parking lots. The areas where park and ride will be available include Golden Grove Road, Latimore Lake Road, Loch Lomond Road and Lorneville. McCarey said the transit commission received $400,000 from the provincial government's Climate Change Action Plan fund for the new commuter service.

"It's a service so people can park their car, get on the bus, come uptown and not have to worry about parking," he said.

During Monday's common council meeting, Councillor Chris Titus called the new park and ride program a milestone for Saint John.

The program comes on the heels of the success of the Comex program.

"With the Comex service, I expected it was going to take three or four years to build up the ridership and we were there in 12 months," McCarey said. "So we think there are opportunities to do the same thing inside the city."

Published Wednesday May 13th, 2009 - Telegraph Journal