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Starting a conversation

Organization bringing first public transit event to Conception Bay South

By Chris Lewis | Vol. 32 No. 47 (Feb. 6, 2020)

A group of social activists is hoping to rev up interest in a public transit system for Conception Bay South.

The Social Justice Cooperative of Newfoundland and Labrador will hold a public session on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 1-3 p.m. at St. John the Evangelist Church Hall in Topsail.

Coordinator Neria Aylward said for those living outside of the capital city, transportation can be a costly, even confusing, undertaking.

“Yes, there’s the Metrobus, but that doesn’t operate outside the city (aside from Paradise),” she said. “So, besides that, that’s it for public transit. We want to get the conversation started with all of the right people in the room, because I know that it’s something we’ve had a lot of people come to about.”

The “right people” that Aylward mentioned include local politicians from each level of government, such as Member of Parliament Ken McDonald, MHA Barry Petten, and council members.

Aylward said while her group is interested in broaching the issue in places throughout the province, the sheer size of CBS led to this first meeting. With more than 26,000 residents, the Social Justice Cooperative is hoping to see a solid turnout to get the conversation about public transit rolling.

In a town of 26,000 people, Aylward said, there are many people who work outside the community. While most will have vehicles or access to a ride, not everyone does. Some are left to rely on either the goodwill of others, or a costly cab fare.

“The bottom line is that, outside of St John’s if you do not own a car, or don’t have access to one, you’re really in trouble and cannot get around. That’s a huge issue,” Aylward said. “We have an aging population in Newfoundland and Labrador, and some people are no longer able to drive even if they used to be able to. Still, we’re a car-centric culture, so it’s going to be really tough for people to look beyond personal vehicles.”

Aylward note the province did, at one time, have a number of bus and shuttle services. Most went out of business as more and more people acquired their own vehicles. Aylward said now is a good time to start looking into these types of businesses once again.

“It might not be the most profitable industry right now, but it’s still something that we need,” she said.

“It’s a basic mobility issue,” Aylward added. “People should be able to get around without having a car. We’re all paying for roads, and snow clearing through taxes. And if people don’t have access to a car, then they can’t make use of the things their taxes are paying for.”

A public transit system would lead to an increase in the quality of life for many people, Aylward argued.

It would also help tourism, she said.

“We have a lot of tourists who come to the province and end up just coming to a stop in St. John’s because they can’t get around to the other communities,” Aylward said. “People can rent a car but that tends to get pretty expensive. That means that, for a lot of people, their vision of the province starts and ends with St. John’s, which is a shame because we have so much outside of the city that is really exciting. People should be able to explore that – I mean Manuels River is, what, a 15-minute drive out of town, but most people won’t make it because they just simply cannot get there. Public transit opens up a lot of opportunity for exchange.”

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