Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
July 23, 2024
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New bus service just might be the County's best kept secret
<p>County Transit: Original Digital Illustration (Natalie Piper/Gazette Staff)</p>
County Transit: Original Digital Illustration (Natalie Piper/Gazette Staff)

County Transit just scaled up.

You’ll have noticed the bus, which seems to be everywhere in and around Picton these days.

Starting last Monday, it’s now on a near continuous loop. The first bus leaves the Picton Metro at 6:15 every weekday morning to wind through various stops, including the Heights and Base31, before returning to the Metro at 6:43 to then take passengers though Bloomfield and to the Belleville bus terminal at 7:25. From there, the bus driver can supply a transfer to any bus in Belleville, included in the cost of the ticket.

Subsequent loops start at Metro at 8:45 a.m., 11:45 a.m., and 2:15 p.m. The last one of the day departs at 4:45 p.m.

If you factor in the return trips, a bus is running between Picton Heights, Picton, and Belleville 10 times a day.

The only problem is a lack of riders. 

But if the new manager of County Transit, Vincent de Tourdonnet, has his way, that’s going to change. 

“By ‘transit’ I mean the ability to get around without a car — we want more bikes and more pedestrian-friendly routes as well. We are about to expand in population and we need to make sure there are viable transit options for everybody — not just cars everywhere. That’s just not going to be sustainable.” 

Vincent de Tourdonnet

Mr. de Tourdonnet is enjoying the distinction of being the first person in the history of the County with a full-time job running local transit.

He is on a mission to get the word out. As he says, “we are not serving enough people in this community, not enough people know about it.”

The Quinte Transit service in Prince Edward County launched during the pandemic, he explains, because that is when the funding came through. “Ridership is nowhere near what it should be, given the need and desire for it.”

Seniors, those without a car, younger people — there are many possible patrons. Including students. Belleville’s many schools, such as Loyalist, Nicholson, or Albert colleges, are just over a half hour away from Picton, whose bus terminal is walking distance to many destinations, or a quick bus ride.

The Loyalist Express, for example, ferries students between the terminal and the College in minutes. Those buses also serve Albert College.

“I’m convinced there are people who would use transit if they knew about it.”

Special Services

“You know, there is a stigma about transit in county — that it’s only for other people. We want to flip the script on that stigma.”

Quinte Transit’s specialized service buses, for example, will come fetch you anywhere in the County if you are 55+ or have special needs. All you need to do is register for the service, and book it a day ahead.

Yet people hesitate, worried such a service is not quite for them, or worried about who they might meet.

“You’ll meet your neighbours,” says Mr. de Tourdonnet. “You meet all the other people who live in the County and might need a helping hand. I rode it myself the other day. It was so incredibly welcoming and warm as a social experience; it was the nicest bus ride I’ve ever had. When I got off, everyone was asking me when I was coming back.”

For a lonely senior who has trouble getting out, or for a person who doesn’t like the long drive all the way to Belleville and back, the integrated community service is a great option.

The service supplements that of Community Care for Seniors, which has a volunteer-run ride service. “It only has so much capacity,” notes Mr. de Tourdonnet.

In addition, PELASS funds free monthly passes through various local social organizations to help the most vulnerable, such as those looking for work, to access transit.

Future Plans

“Because there is so much growth in this community,” notes Mr. de Tourdonnet, “if we don’t soon improve our use of transit, I am worried we will end up like a giant suburb. 

“By ‘transit’ I mean the ability to get around without a car — we want more bikes and more pedestrian-friendly routes as well. We are about to expand in population and we need to make sure there are viable transit options for everybody — not just cars everywhere. That’s just not going to be sustainable.” 

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 26 edition of The Picton Gazette
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