Lack of af­ford­able trans­porta­tion leaves pub­lic stuck

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Pat Cullen Pat Cullen is a jour­nal­ist and com­mu­nity vol­un­teer who lives in Car­bon­ear. She can be reached at 596-1505 or

It’s 2016. An af­ford­able pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tem in the Con­cep­tion-Trin­ity bay ar­eas is non-ex­is­tent. And that’s sim­ply atro­cious.

It’s a dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tice that ex­cludes some low-in­come earn­ers from the work­force and pre­vents oth­ers from tak­ing classes that would pro­vide them with the skills to con­trib­ute to the econ­omy. If you don’t own a ve­hi­cle or know a de­pend­able per­son with equally de­pend­able trans­porta­tion, your only op­tion is a pri­vate taxi.

This is cer­tainly well be­yond the means of the min­i­mum or mod­est wage-earner, the stu­dent not within walk­ing dis­tance of their classes with no re­li­able trans­port, and those who don’t wish to be­come nui­sances by beg­ging rides to and from ap­point­ments or er­rands.

As usual, it is the peo­ple at the bot­tom who are the most neg­a­tively af­fected. Anne Collins Brown, client ser­vices of­fi­cer with the Car­bon­ear of­fice of the Sin­gle Par­ent As­so­ci­a­tion of N.L., has iden­ti­fied lack of af­ford­able pub­lic tran­sit as the main prob­lem faced by her non-profit ser­vice agency. Collins Brown teaches pre-em­ploy­ment classes to sin­gle par­ents re­ceiv­ing in­come sup­port and she is frus­trated.

“We could have a lot more peo­ple go­ing through our doors, peo­ple could be pre­pared for the work­force or for school­ing or for what­ever they choose to do next, but they’re not get­ting that op­por­tu­nity be­cause they can’t get here,” she said.

Bus com­pa­nies in the area mainly do char­ter and school runs now. Most rep­re­sen­ta­tives did not want their com­pa­nies named nor see their com­ments in print, but col­lec­tively they claim the big buses that once trun­dled through the com­mu­ni­ties are no longer prof­itable. Too many peo­ple have ve­hi­cles and pas­sen­gers are go­ing the way of the di­nosaur. And no doubt there is some cred­i­bil­ity to their ar­gu­ment.

But while the day of the large mo­tor coach may be over, there are smaller mod­els that could work well be­tween our com­mu­ni­ties and also give a much­needed con­nec­tion to St. John’s. Ja­son Roberts, owner of the trans-is­land bus com­pany DRL, would look at the fea­si­bil­ity of mov­ing into the re­gion, if asked, but he never has been.

It is here where mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers can help, but it is not a prob­lem to which they give much at­ten­tion. Some see it as an is­sue, but not a pri­or­ity is­sue like roads, wa­ter and sewer, snow­clear­ing and pub­lic safety. It’s sim­ply a side is­sue, of paramount im­por­tance only to those af­fected and those af­fected are usu­ally the least likely to make their voices heard be­cause they feel they will be ig­nored.

This may not be the case and a bit of prod­ding never hurts. Gord Power of the Joint Coun­cils of Con­cep­tion Bay North, while fa­mil­iar with the is­sue, said it was never raised by coun­cil mem­bers in the few months he has served as chair. It takes just one phone call to have it placed on the agenda for a meet­ing in late Fe­bru­ary. Clay­ton Bran­ton, chair­man of the Joint May­ors’ As­so­ci­a­tion for Trin­ity-Bay de Verde, didn’t think there was any prob­lem among work­ing-age per­sons get­ting to and from em­ploy­ment or classes in the 1l com­mu­ni­ties that fall un­der the as­so­ci­a­tion’s um­brella. It was pretty much a non-is­sue, but one phone call later he is at least will­ing to bring it to the ta­ble.

Iron­i­cally, Collins Brown knows a po­ten­tial client in Heart’s De­light who can’t at­tend her pro­gram be­cause the per­son has no way to get to-and-from Car­bon­ear. Bran­ton is mayor of Heart’s De­light-Is­ling­ton.

It is un­der­stand­able why mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments are re­luc­tant to wade in. They re­al­ize it can’t be done with­out a govern­ment sub­sidy and they think that will be hard to get. Per­haps it will. But Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau has promised multi-bil­lion dol­lar in­vest­ment for pub­lic tran­sit. Surely our mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, so­cialser­vice agen­cies and other in­ter­ested groups can lobby hard enough to tap into that.

Premier Ball has promised im­proved trans­porta­tion for se­niors. Such a ser­vice could be ex­panded to em­brace other dis­ad­van­taged groups. It is dis­ap­point­ing that MHA’s Steve Crocker and Pam Par­sons have never even re­ceived one re­quest to dis­cuss lack of af­ford­able pub- lic trans­porta­tion from any­one.

So, it’s time for we who need it to shout. Don’t set­tle for the politi­cians’ stan­dard an­swer that “we’ll look into it,” be­cause it may just be to­kenism. Don’t as­sume Trudeau’s tran­sit plan is lim­ited to con­struc­tion and re­pair for cities only or let oth­ers con­vince us it is. If we or­ga­nize and keep ap­ply­ing pres­sure, some­thing, ex­cuse the pun, will even­tu­ally move.

It’s time to ask Mu­nic­i­pal Affairs, Trans­porta­tion and Works or DRL to look at the is­sue and see what’s best for us. What we don’t want in our wors­en­ing econ­omy is work­ing-age peo­ple col­lect­ing in­come sup­port be­cause they have no means of ei­ther get­ting to a job or to the skills classes which will equip them to take one. That’s not only out­ra­geous. It’s just plain stupid.

It is un­der­stand­able why mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments are re­luc­tant to wade in. They re­al­ize it can’t be done with­out a govern­ment sub­sidy and they think that will be hard to get.

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