Transportation and Active Transit Minister Lloyd Hines exits a wheelchair-accessible vehicle used by Antigonish Community Transit Society to transport residents -- Photo by Communications Nova Scotia

ANTIGONISH: The executive director of Antigonish Community Transit (ACT) says provincial funding is crucial to the services it provides.

“It’s absolutely incredible, we couldn’t do what we do without this,” Madonna van Vonderen, executive director of ACT told The Reporter. “It’s crucial to being able to make sure that people can get to where they need to go when they need to.”

In total, the province is investing $4.7 million to improve access to public transportation across Nova Scotia. Twenty-five projects will receive funding through the Community Transportation Assistance Program (CTAP) and the Public Transit Assistance Program (PTAP) this fiscal year.

In Antigonish, ACT will receive $85,580 from CTAP and an additional $25,000 from the PTAP.

“We are grateful for these funding streams because it goes a long way in a small community like ours,” van Vonderen said. “This funding allows us to provide both fixed route services and door-to-door services, which has been incredibly helpful to our clients who often use us to attend medical appointments, access food, pick-up prescriptions and even get their COVID vaccinations.”

ACT’s executive director advised the CTAP is used to help with their Book-A-Ride service, covering everything from drivers salaries to repairs and maintenance.

“We use that to try to keep the rate as low as possible, because it’s usually people that are affected by poverty and accessibility issues that needs the service the most.,” van Vonderen said. “One of the services ACT runs is a fixed bus route around town; the $25,000 is earmarked for capital and right now we’re trying to save for a new bus.”

Neighbouring service provider Strait Area Transit (SAT) is set to receive $96,984 in CTAP funding along with $50,000 from the PTAP.

Minister of Transportation and Active Transit Lloyd Hines indicated community transportation programs are essential for many Nova Scotians, both in rural and urban communities, as the programs offer full-service transportation to meet the daily needs of residents.

“We have a commitment to providing reliable community transportation across the province,” Hines said. “It’s certainly the foundational funding for the significant network that we have now across Nova Scotia for community transit.”

The CTAP is providing more than $1.8 million in operating funding to 19 door-to-door community transportation services. The PTAP is providing $2,925,000 to municipalities and community organizations providing fixed route transit services.

Greg Sewell, the director of the community transportation program, advised the funding from CTAP is for core operational funding, while the PTAP is for capital purposes only.

“Both services indicated through their application that they will be using the funding for the purchase of a new vehicle,” Sewell said.

While all of the province’s vectors are indicating there has been impacts to the community transit sector due to the ongoing implications from the COVID-19 pandemic, Hines suggested the funding is just a renewal of what they have been providing.

“No doubt in the time of a pandemic, with the difficulties that these organizations have faced it will be welcome news,” he said.

In a release from the province, it announced Eskasoni First Nation will be launching transit services this year and will be eligible for funding through these two programs during next fiscal year.

This funding is part of the work of Nova’s Scotia’s Strengthening Communities through Transportation action plan.

Hines advised improving access to community transportation is a cornerstone of the government’s Poverty Reduction Blueprint, Community Transportation Action Plan and is identified as a priority in SHIFT Nova Scotia’s Action Plan for an Aging Population.