PORT HAWKESBURY: It has been a busy year for Strait Area Transit (SAT).
SAT office manager Jessie MacDonald says the community-based transit system has seen a significant increase in ridership over the past year, and is working on a proposal to expand its services into Victoria County.
“There have been increases in both Richmond and Inverness counties and in our charters as well. We’re transporting a lot of people,” MacDonald said.
“In 2016, we were looking at moving about 1,500 people a month, that’s what it averaged out to. This year we’re looking at about 2,500 a month, which is pretty incredible.”
MacDonald says they expect this year’s total number of passengers to reach 30,000 for the year before the end of their fiscal year in late March.
“This past September, we expanded service in Richmond County. Their funding increased, so we increased service in that area. Now we actually have a second vehicle down in Richmond County, so they’ve definitely been utilizing transit,” said MacDonald. “And Inverness County continues to grow. We’ve seen extreme growth there over the past two years.”
Currently, SAT provides service to residents of Richmond County, Inverness County and the Town of Port Hawkesbury. Recently, they have been in communication with Victoria County regarding the possibility of providing service to that area as well.
“I did present to Victoria council last month. Their entire council has seen a need for transit in their communities,” said MacDonald.
MacDonald said she is putting together a business plan and hopes to present it to Victoria Municipal Council by the end of March. She says the plan will give councillors a better understanding of what the project would entail, as well as the costs involved.
“Victoria is a large area, so they just want to be cautious going in to make sure we have a strong plan in place to be able to provide service to everybody and not just sections of Victoria County,” she said.
She hopes to gather input from council to what transportation service in the county would look like.
“I asked council if they would meet with me while I’m working with the business plan to see what they believe their specific needs are in each of their districts,” she said.
Recently, SAT has also recently applied to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to expand its charter license into Antigonish Town and County. A public hearing for the request will take place at the end of the month.