Transit options growing in Prince Edward County

ALL ABOARD! County of Prince Edward Community Services & Programs Coordinator Grace Nyman, Councillors Phil St. Jean and Bill Roberts, Brian Beiles of the County Foundation, Mayor Steve Ferguson and Quinte Access Executive Director Shelly Ackers celebrate the launch of County Transit Tuesday morning at the Crystal Palace. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette Staff)

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

Belleville may not be so far away for those in Prince Edward County without a vehicle, thanks to a new County Transit plan that has been in the works for several years. The new mode of transit will build upon existing, specialized transit that has been available for seniors and those with disabilities.

The buses began rolling  Monday, August 24th.

On Tuesday, Shelly Ackers, Executive Director of Quinte Access, Grace Nyman, Community Services and Programs Coordinator, Councillors Phil St-Jean and Bill Roberts, Brian Beiles, County Foundation President and Mayor Steve Ferguson all attended a press release held at the Crystal Palace to celebrate the inauguration of County Transit.

Since the 2013 Vital Signs Report highlighted the need for public transportation within the County, several generations of councillors, County Staff and The County Foundation have been working together to provide this basic service.

In the report, it was established that “living independently and with dignity in The County is impossible without reasonable access to transportation”.

Subsequently, the municipality in partnership with The County Foundation, formed the “Getting Around” working group in order to solve the transportation issue in the County.

In 2018, a $500,000 grant over five years was gifted to the municipality from the provincial government to implement the public transit plan and business case.

The Women’s Institute has also been vital in implementing public transportation. Since 1989, they have been studying the transportation needs of residents and been fundraising to make transportation here more accessible.

Donating funds from their ever-popular Women’s Institute Craft Sale, the local group has made accessible transportation for seniors and those with disabilities possible since 2007.

“This is an important step to be able to provide affordable transit for people in this County,” said Mayor Steve Ferguson. “We’ve had partnerships and support from the provincial government and, importantly, The Women’s Institute.”

Ackers spoke on behalf of Quinte Access.

“We are more than thrilled from the support we’ve gotten from council, the working group and staff,” expressed Ackers. “They’ve been a huge part of helping us develop this and making sure we get it going. We’ve been providing specialized transportation since 2007. Our goal has been to provide transportation so that everybody has access to the things they need and this is just going to be another level.”

Ackers added that the aim has been to look at transportation from a regional approach, which is why all County Transit buses will connect to the Robert E. Ladoucier Transit Centre-otherwise known as the Belleville bus terminal.

The route will flow through Picton to Bloomfield and then Belleville, with some on-demand options available.

“For anybody that wouldn’t qualify for specialized transit, if they’re not on the transit route or don’t have access to the route, then they’re encouraged to call us and we will try to provide an on demand service,” said Ackers. “We will bring them to stops so they can catch the transit bus to go to Belleville or into town.”

The County Transit fare is integrated with any transfer fees should riders wish to go further into Belleville.

While each bus has a capacity for 12 passengers, due to COVID-19, they are running at about 50 per cent capacity. Masks are required and all high-touch areas are being regularly sanitized.

Fares to Belleville are $11 one way, while Picton to Bloomfield is $5. Payment can only be made with cash and exact change is required.

For more information about the new County Transit route, please visit: https://quinteaccess.org/county-transit.

For on-demand transit options, please call 613-392-9640.