- Ashin Wilfy
TRANSIT CB – EN ROUTE TO CHANGE
With the possibility of an increase in the number of students using Transit CB in the upcoming months, Caper Times reached out to James R. Forsey of Transit Cape Breton for an interview. James invited Caper Times to the transit facility, gave us a tour, and was more than willing to clear our doubts and share plans to accommodate the increasing student population in Cape Breton. This article summarizes the interview and the information CT received from Transit Cape Breton.
Having its humble beginnings in 1983, Transit Cape Breton aimed to cover the basic transportation needs of the residents of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The Transit provides bus services as well as Handi-Trans to the CBRM residents, connecting major communities. The demand for transit increased manifold as CBU’s programs began to attract more international students. Over the years, there have been times when transit facilities were overwhelmed by the rapid influx in passenger numbers, and some even took to social media to vent about transit services not being able to accommodate the same. During the tour, James explained that in a few short years, provincial and federal funding will not support the purchase of diesel buses, rather it will support the new electric or hybrid models. Therefore, at this time, Transit Cape Breton is actively trying to find and secure good used diesel buses. This is not easy considering the above funding restrictions apply not just to Nova Scotia, but to all provinces, so demand is high.
THE TRANSIT FACILITY The tour of the transit facilities started with the mechanical bay which accommodates three full-size buses, and one minibus at any given time. Given today’s standards and the transit’s growth, the mechanical bay needs immediate development. James then took CT to the buses and explained in detail about the new buses which were brought to Cape Breton from California. These buses will become a part of the fleet in the coming days. When enquired about the multiple buses that are kept in the transit yard, CT was informed that these buses are units that have been retired as a result of being past their serviceable life or units which are not repairable due to accidents or extensive mechanical issues. However, Transit will use parts from these units to repair other buses thus recycling them. This is helpful as getting parts, at this time, for repairs often takes a great deal of time which affect bus availability. Reusing parts helps avoid these delays in repair.
THE LIVE BUS TRACKER Later in the tour, we met with Eric, who works on “everything tech” at the Transit. Eric is the brain behind the live bus tracker map that is now available for the public via the transit website, which even though looks simple and easy to use, was complex to develop. He is currently working on an app that does the same and hopes that it will make transit services more convenient for passengers. Even with limited infrastructure capabilities, it seemed that Transit staff are doing everything they can to make the journey satisfactory for commuters.
NEW ROUTES & BUSES CT shared suggestions from students about the possibility of new bus routes to regions of the municipality such as Mira Road, Westmount, and even Louisburg to help overcome the housing crisis. We were informed that starting a new bus route is not as easy as one would think. A new bus route means that the residents in that area will be subject to a new municipal transit tax and immediate action is not feasible.
IMPACT OF STUDENTS ON THE TRANSIT The most predominant users of transit services are CBU students. James told us that the students were the primary reason behind several changes that were implemented and helped in Transit’s growth. The rise in the number of students proportionally raised the demand for transit and the lobbying done by the CBU Students’ Union throughout the years helped the service receive more funds and attention from the municipality and other levels of government. James also added that the current Students’ Union has raised students’ issues with them multiple times. He finds their advocacy to be positive and believes it will bring further changes to the system. When asked about the employees’ response to the increasing number of commuters, especially regarding the student population, we were told that employees are happy with new students coming to Sydney. Further, we were informed drivers do not like leaving students behind when buses are at full capacity, and they have also requested changes to accommodate the increasing number of bus users. Their suggestions were reflected in the changes made to make transit more convenient for commuters.
COMMUNICATION CT enquired about the efforts made by the CBU administration as well as the Students’ Union to communicate the needs of the student commuters and upcoming changes that might affect the functioning of Transit and was notified that the University administration has already made the effort to let Transit officials know about the potential influx in the number of passengers. Furthermore, the CBU Students’ Union constantly corresponds with the transit and even sponsors the Sunday bus service. Transit CB is trying to communicate with its commuters through the official CBRM Facebook page, which James himself updates when any delays arise. He recommends that passengers check the page before they leave their homes so they can plan accordingly. He hopes with the new app in place, this would be smooth and the communication gap between patrons and the transit will disappear. Commuters are also encouraged to contact the transit services by calling 311 or by emailing them regarding issues or delays they notice. SUGGESTIONS FOR STUDENTS James mentioned four practices that could help make the commute using transit better and easier: · Check the CBRM Facebook page before the commute. · Ensure that you have the proper change or your bus pass ready when you enter the bus. · Get to the bus stop earlier, not exactly on time. If possible, take the bus that is half an hour prior to the one you wish to take. · Check the list of holidays and make use of the facilities available, such as the live bus tracker. With winter storms arises a possibility of bus services being delayed or even canceled and therefore it is crucial that students and other commuters do their due diligence while using the transit.
CT queried about the possibility of hiring new employees for the transit from the immigrant community much like the Police department is planning to do, and we were informed that diversity is always welcome, and the Transit CB officials are waiting for qualified applications. A class 2 driver’s license from the province of Nova Scotia is needed for most positions and we were told that there will be more job openings soon.
Without a doubt, Transit Cape Breton plays a significant role in the lives of CBU students who depend on it for their daily commute. However, the unprecedented rise in the number of commuters has, at times, resulted in certain inconveniences. The service is on the path to change, but to do so properly, they need your input.
The Transit survey sponsored by CBRM is to better understand the needs of the transit users and instigate further changes according to feedback. Please use this survey to voice your needs and hopefully, the changes we need will be implemented soon.
Forsey, James R.; Interview with Ashin Wilfy
Peer Reviewed by Publishing Board