Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King (centre) receives Transport Action Atlantic’s John Pearce Award from TAA president Tim Hayman (right), and past president Ted Bartlett. (Submitted Photo)

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King has been named the winner of Transport Action Atlantic’s John Pearce Award for 2022, recognizing outstanding contribution to public transportation in the region.

“According to Statistics Canada, PEI ranks among the most car-dependent regions in the nation,” says TAA president Tim Hayman. “But Premier King is clearly determined to change that unfortunate situation, and his outstanding leadership on the public transit file is unquestionably making a difference. The introduction of island-wide ‘toonie transit’ and the $20 monthly pass has demonstrated that it is most certainly possible to live in small towns and rural communities without the substantial financial burden of car ownership.”

The decision to honour Premier King for his progressive initiatives was made late in 2022, but the presentation was deferred because of the looming provincial election. TAA is a strictly non-partisan advocacy group, and did not wish to be perceived as taking sides in the campaign.

From a pilot project launched in October 2021 serving Souris, Georgetown, Montague and other communities on the eastern end of PEI, Island Transit has expanded to reach westward to Alberton and Tignish, and north to the Cavendish area where it has enabled seasonal workers without cars to accept jobs in the tourism industry. In March 2022 the Province went a step further, introducing the $20 island-wide monthly transit pass on a trial basis. That’s the fare for adult riders; seniors and students pay just half that price, and everyone under 18 rides for free. The pass is also valid on T3 Transit in Greater Charlottetown. Ridership on both systems is steadily growing, with 2600 passes purchased in November.

The program proved so successful that the government funding has been extended indefinitely, and Premier King tells TAA it enjoys a wide base of support among islanders from all walks of life and political
persuasions. It was an easy decision to make, he says, as it both reduces the province’s carbon footprint and helps make life more affordable for islanders.

“Canada’s smallest province has set a very progressive example for other jurisdictions to follow,” said Tim Hayman. “Transport Action Atlantic encourages the other three premiers in our region to take a closer look at what Premier King has achieved, and consider launching similar public transit initiatives in their provinces.”

The John Pearce Award was created to commemorate Transport Action Atlantic’s long-time former president, who devoted more than 40 years to public transportation advocacy. It is awarded annually to an individual or group to recognize an outstanding contribution, consistent with Mr. Pearce’s life-long passion.

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