Here’s the latest on the Rural Lynx project in Southwest New Brunswick. The following was published in the Telegraph Journal on Sept. 1, 2016:
Southwest transit authority optimistic following meeting
Derwin Gowan, Telegraph-Journal
ST. STEPHEN • A meeting this week on funding for a proposed Charlotte County bus service went well, according to people who attended. However, the Southwest New Brunswick Transit Authority Inc. (SWNBTAI) still needs funding commitments by the end of the year to put the planned Rural Lynx service on the road, president Stan Choptiany wrote in an email after the meeting in Tourism, Heritage and Culture Minister John Ames’ Charlotte-Campobello constituency office in St. Stephen.
SWNBTAI board members met with Ames and New Brunswick Southwest MP Karen Ludwig’s executive assistant Marlene Chase. Ludwig called him later, Choptiany wrote. The MP indicated “strong support” for Rural Lynx, he wrote.“She encouraged the Board to apply for stage two infrastructure funding. The deadline is the end of September. We discussed application strategies.”
The SWNBTAI grew out of the former Charlotte County Transportation Working Group which used funding from the provincial Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation and the Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission to develop a business plan. Rural Lynx would make two round trips per day connecting Charlotte County communities with each other and with Saint John , aimed at people going to work, attending university and community college, medical and legal appointments and other business. The business plan projects that Rural Lynx would need an annual operating subsidy, as do other transit systems, starting at about $325,000 but dropping to $200,000 as ridership grows. Choptiany has argued that the province could fund this out of money it already spends, for example, on transportation for social assistance recipients attending medical appointments in Saint John .
The group needs a positive response from the government to get other possible funding, Choptiany explained in a recent interview. The last bus pulled out of Charlotte County when Acadian Lines folded in 2012. Ludwig has said that the SWN-BTAI’s proposal could serve as a pilot project for rural transit across Canada , but nobody made firm funding commitments at the meeting in Ames ’ office. The federal government announced $176 million in August for the first phase of infrastructure projects in New Brunswick including $8.6 million with matching funds from municipalities for transit projects in Moncton , Saint John , Fredericton and Miramichi. Ludwig encouraged Rural Lynx to apply for the second phase of infrastructure funding to be announced this year.
The transit authority board told Ames and Ludwig’s representative that “the current funding the Southwest New Brunswick Transit Authority Inc. (SWNBTAI) has available to it, is time sensitive and that it must be committed before the end of the year,” Choptiany wrote. “The SWNBTAI Board is working to have the required applications, licensing, requests for proposals, communications and work plans completed before an anticipated winter start providing funding is determined. It is clear to the Board that MP Karen Ludwig will provide leadership on investigating funding,” he wrote. “The SWNBTAI Board is encouraged that there is a positive path forward in the Federal funding application opportunity. Nobody committed money, “but we are working hard within our respective jurisdictions to show the benefits this service can bring to residents of any rural area,” Ames a former member of the Charlotte County Transportation Working Group, wrote in an email following the meeting in his office. “A pilot project of this sort requires many meaningful discussions with various departments that all have valuable input to offer. I have attended the majority of these meetings and look forward to seeing how we can continue working together,” he wrote.