STRAIT AREA: The provincial government is helping ensure Nova Scotians have access to affordable, accessible and reliable transportation options.

More than 20 organizations and municipalities received funding for community transportation during a recent announcement, including Strait Area Transit and Antigonish Community Transit.

Liberal MLA Hugh MacKay made the announcement on behalf of Municipal Affairs Minister Chuck Porter on August 3.

“Government is taking steps to improve access to community transportation across the province, especially in rural areas, so Nova Scotians can stay involved in, and connected to, their communities and good jobs.”

Strait Area Transit received $75,000 from the Accessible Transportation Assistance Program (ATAP), $96,984 from the Community Transportation Assistance Program (CTAP), $7,500 from the Transit Research Incentive Program (NSTRIP), and $50,000 from the Public Transit Assistance Program (PTAP) for a total of $229,484.

Jessie MacDonald, director of Strait Area Transit said receiving this spectacular funding is absolutely incredible.

“We’ve been very dependent on the provincial contribution since basically the beginning of rural transit, more and more each year they realize the significance across the province,” she said. “With the province stepping up, like this much, is absolutely incredible. It will literally change rural transit across the province.”

The demand for accessible transportation keeps increasing and Strait Area Transit is hoping to keep up with that demand. As a part of their funding, Strait Area Transit will now be able to purchase an 18-passenger accessible bus through the ATAP.

“Currently we actually have two accessible vans, but the accessible bus will be able to transport more people,” MacDonald said. “In this area especially, there’s no other opportunity for anybody who’s in a wheelchair to travel, unless there’s a family member who can lift them out of their wheelchairs, otherwise we’re the only option.”

Antigonish Community Transit received $85,580 from the Community Transportation Assistance Program and $25,000 from the Public Transit Assistance Program for a total of $110,580.

The CTAP provides operating funding to 17 door-to-door community transit services. A new investment of $600,000 was added to the program budget in 2018-19.

The ATAP is an application-based program that provides funding towards the purchase of accessible vehicles. This program’s budget increased by more than $450,000 in the 2018-19 budget.

The NSTRIP is an application-based program that provides funding for organizations interested in starting or expanding transit services.

The PTAP assists public transit services with the purchase of capital assets such as buses, terminals and bus shelters.

Public transportation in rural locations is absolutely essential, MacDonald said.

“In the cities they have their said bus routes, but here, because we’re in such rural communities, everything is so spread out, having a said bus route is almost impossible.”

That’s why Strait Area Transit, who’s funding increased $20,000 in the last year through the CTAP, and so many other rural transportation services like it now offer door-to-door service, she said.

“People call and book in 24-48 hours in advance and we can literally pick up passengers anywhere in these municipalities.”