PORT HAWKESBURY: Strait Area Transit (SAT) is looking to provide charter service to groups in Antigonish County.

The Port Hawkesbury-based community transit system has applied to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) for an amendment to its motor carrier license. The change would allow the group to provide charter services within the Town and County of Antigonish.

“We currently have a charter license in Inverness, Richmond and Guysborough counties, but Antigonish doesn’t fall under our license,” said SAT operations manager Malcolm MacPhail.

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The requested change would allow SAT to pick up larger groups from within the county and take them anywhere within the province. Currently, Antigonish Community Transit Society (ACTS) does not have the license required to transport groups of more than eight passengers outside of Antigonish County. MacPhail says he has received requests from ACTS for assistance in providing this type of service.

“We’ve been getting a lot of requests from a lot of other small not-for-profit groups like seniors’ groups and sports teams that are looking for an affordable alternative for transportation,” said MacPhail.

Although the proposed change could put more demand on SAT resources, MacPhail said he believes they have capacity to handle the extra ridership.

In addition to providing more transportation options for community groups in Antigonish County, MacPhail believes the change would also help the local transit systems to work together more efficiently.

“If Antigonish transit has an issue up there with one of their buses, we can actually go up to their area and help them out. That’s one of the big things. We’re all not-for-profit organizations and many of us don’t have any backup infrastructure. If a bus goes down, they have nothing to keep their operation going,” said MacPhail, adding that SAT could also be available to help with ridership overflow if needed.

“We work very closely together through what we call the RTA, that’s the Rural Transit Association. It’s a group of small rural transit groups that work together and try to help each other out”

Dale Bogle, general manager of ACTS agrees the change would be a positive one for both transportation systems. He says he has been forced to turn down requests from larger groups due to licensing constraints.

“We can’t take our bigger bus outside of the Antigonish County lines,” said Bogle. “What [SAT] wants is for their bigger buses to come over here, and I don’t have any problem with that whatsoever. I think it’s good for transportation, and we’re partners in transportation, so I see it as a good thing.”

Bogle said his service’s ridership has grown from 5,329 in 2015 to around 28,000 for 2017 as of the end of November. Although ACTS was turned down for a charter license in the past, Bogle says he has been looking into filing another application.

“Our service has really grown quite rapidly, so it’s just getting the time to make the application and do kind of the same thing as Strait Area Transit is looking at.”

SAT filed their application on December 1, and anyone wishing to oppose the request has until December 20 to submit their objection to the UARB. If no objections are filed, the UARB may grant the request without a public hearing.