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Image: Huntsman Marine

Saint Andrews asks everyone to get on the bus

By Scott Pettigrew May 19, 2023 | 11:12 AM

The southern New Brunswick town of Saint Andrews is piloting a new project bringing free bus service to locals and tourists during the height of the summer tourism season.

“To use it on a regular route I think is really exciting,” says Saint Andrews Mayor Brad Henderson of the 11-passenger, wheelchair-accessible bus.

It will run a seven-stop loop throughout the town completely free of charge for anyone, resident or tourist. It will stop at the Fundy Discovery Aquarium, Elizabeth Park, Princess Royal Street, the Kiwanis Ocean Campground, Kingsbrae Garden, the Algonquin Resort and the town Welcome Centre.

Running Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in July and August from noon until 5 p.m., the bus will provide an easy alternative to driving for those who want to tour the town without constantly looking for a parking spot.

The bus pilot is a project being run with the help of several partners in town including the Huntsman Marine Science Centre, which has ownership over the bus, and Kingsbrae Garden which came up with the idea during COVID. The municipality is also taking a keen interest in the project.

“The reason why we’re limiting [the stops] for year one is, we don’t want you to have to wait for the bus for an hour and a half, we wanted to make sure that it’s something you could count on coming every hour,” said Henderson.

Henderson says the municipality is pitching in by looking at signage and benches for the stops, so it’s clear to users where to wait.

He says that about 10 years ago there was a similar bus that ran in the town, but the municipality was not involved. There was no consistent bus schedule back then, and people had to pay bus fares.

Henderson says they’ve learned from those hiccups and the partners are working together to help this iteration run more easily, in addition to collecting valuable usage data along the way.

“The municipality is very interested in collecting the data from this pilot,” he says. “As people are using this, there might be an opportunity to look for expanded services and find out who is using the bus and when.”

“Through municipal reform, the regional service commission now has transportation as a mandated service under them. You’ve got to think that group would be interested in seeing how this pilot goes, as they try to figure out transportation in a rural area.”

Although St. Andrews is already a walkable town with a concentrated core of restaurants and amenities, there is a fair bit of distance between points like the Welcome Centre at the W.C. O’Neill Arena, the scenic Kiwanis Ocean Campground and the family favourite Huntsman Marine Science Centre/Fundy Discovery Aquarium.

The hope is the bus will help alleviate some of the traffic that can come into the historic downtown, be it from people at the campsite picking up groceries, locals meeting a friend for a meal, to day-trippers checking out the town for the afternoon.

The town already has traffic calming measures in place during the tourist season, with car travel on Water Street restricted to one-way, single-lane traffic from mid-May to mid-October. The restaurant and shop-filled primary road can get very congested with tourists headed to the wharf during the season, so restrictions are needed to make that stretch more pedestrian friendly.

Now with the bus stop, it will be even easier for people to leave their cars at home while they explore the town.

With two stops in the central business district, one at Elizabeth Park and the other at the intersection of Water and Princess Royal Street just a couple blocks away from the wharf, the bus is a convenient option for getting to the most popular destinations in town.

“Businesses within close proximity of the stops are expected to benefit from the increased foot traffic,” says Julia Halbleib, executive director of the Saint Andrews Chamber of Commerce.

“Passengers can now park at their initial destination and ride to other areas of the town. This transportation option will help alleviate concerns with traffic and limited parking options in the historic downtown district and allow for more people to access the downtown core during peak season. In addition to serving visitors, residents can also take advantage of this service to access amenities.“

In its off-duty hours, the bus has provided support to initiatives like the recent job fair. It was also used at the beer festival to bring people to and from the venue safely.

Moving forward with this concerted effort to have a regular service, and to measure its effectiveness, could be a game changer for the town.

“When you have a number of partners that all come together, it takes a little bit of the risk off it,” Henderson says. “We’re really hoping that this is something that we look back at and say: ‘Hey, we need a bigger bus.’ That would be the measure of success.”

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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