SACKVILLE, N.B. – A trial shuttle service will hit the roads of the Tantramar region next month, providing local residents with a way to get to and from medical appointments, grocery shopping, and other amenities.
The pilot project, which is being spearheaded by the non-profit group EOS Eco-Energy, will see a four-week trial run start Feb. 1, using an EastLink Shuttle charter bus or van.
Amanda Marlin, executive director of EOS, says the shuttle is being targeted toward a wide range of people – from seniors needing to get to medical appointments, to low-income people getting to the food bank, to mentally-challenged adults traveling to work (for example, Open Sky co-operative in Middle Sackville), and Mount Allison students traveling to Moncton or Amherst, as well as single-car families needing to get around the region.
“There’s a huge need out there,” says Marlin.
A shuttle service would improve the overall quality of life of so many Tantramar residents, from all walks of life, she explains.
“Then there are those who simply would like to do it because it’s more environmentally friendly.”
Tantramar, a largely rural riding, currently doesn’t have a community transportation service. A shuttle, says Marlin, would provide people throughout the region with an option that could meet their transportation needs.
Area residents had the opportunity over the past month to provide their feedback through a survey that was put out to the community, which could either be filled out on paper or online. The aim of the survey was to determine how often the service might be needed, the destinations, times, and reasons people may have for using the service.
Marlin says EOS is currently gathering the information provided through the surveys and will try and pinpoint routes and times that would serve the most number of people. (Residents who didn’t get a chance to fill out a survey can still provide their feedback by calling the EOS office at 536-4487.)
Marlin says obviously the shuttle won’t be able to cater to everyone at all times but if there are groups of people going in the same direction at the same time, then hopefully there will be “patterns that will emerge” that will make it easier to design a beneficial and efficient service.
EOS has received funding for the trial project – $5,000 from the Economic and Social Inclusions Corporation, a Crown corporation in New Brunswick, and $5,000 from Renaissance Sackville, a local non-profit organization.
Marlin says this month-long pilot will determine where the community can go from here when it comes to providing common transportation – whether EastLink would consider offering rides to certain groups or a local entrepreneur would look at starting their own shuttle service.
“This is only a pilot . . . but you have to start somewhere,” she says. “We’ll see how it goes. That’s all we can do.”
Marlin says people will be encouraged to fill out user surveys during the trial period to help determine how well the service is working, and what a future long-term shuttle service might look like or how it could work.