© File photo
Deputy mayor Bruce MacDougall says the city is open to supporting a public transit system if it is viable. File photo
SUMMERSIDE - City council is open to continued support of a Summerside transit system if it is financially viable.
Deputy mayor Bruce MacDougall, chairman of the city’s finance committee said, Summerside is looking for new initiatives that would enhance the service to the public.
“We have discussed it,” MacDougall said. “They had a contract that ran out in May. Our economic development department has been dealing with them in the meantime. But we have not received any new proposal to the council.”
The city and Maritime Bus Company president Mike Cassidy partnered over a year ago to bring a public transit system to Summerside. The city contributed $2,500 per month to the plan for the first year. That funding ran out in May.
Cassidy has continued to operate the line without any additional commitment from the city.
MacDougall doesn’t know at this time if that subsidy level will continue.
“That’s why we have Mike Thususka (director of economic development) involved in it,” he said. “Did we get the value out of it? We’ve asked the economic development department to look at it and review it.”
MacDougall said he understands that Cassidy has another proposal coming to city council.
“We definitely will sit down and evaluate it,” he said.
Last week, Cassidy did say that a new package is being drafted with new initiatives that will go to the city this month. He didn’t say what the new initiatives involved, but reaffirmed his company’s commitment to deliver a transit service in the city.
“I haven’t walked away from the idea,” he said. “We need to get a presence in Summerside.”
City council will be holding its next meeting on Sept. 16 and Cassidy hopes to have the company’s plans in the hands of council by that date.
MacDougall said it is unlikely that council will be dealing with the issue this month.
“It may be filed prior to Monday’s council meeting, but we probably won’t be making any quick decision until we get all of the facts,” the deputy mayor said. “If they have a proposal that’s going to give us value, I would certainly be open to supporting it.”
Coun. Ron Dowling said council will have preliminary discussion on the transit system following Monday night’s council meeting.
“At that time we’d be looking at whatever proposal is being put froth from Maritime Bus Service,” he said. “We’d also be looking at it from a pilot project observations and recommendations perspective. That’s where the economic development will come into play. They will be providing council with an analysis of the service over the past year, ridership and costs and what they feel should come forth from the city by way of proposals.”
Dowling said there will be proposals coming from both the city and Maritime Bus Company and both sides would be looking at it with a view to an agreement that’s most beneficial to the ridership.
“The past year hasn’t been really high in relation to ridership but that doesn’t mean the service doesn’t need a bit more time to catch on,” Dowling said. “Obviously, he (Cassidy) wants to see it succeed and from the city’s perspective there are many advantages to a public transportation system.”
The length of any city subsidy is also an issue for council.
“It’s a year-to-year thing,” MacDougall said. “We just had a trial, a pilot project and it ran out. We tried to make some contact but we didn’t get a whole lot of feedback from them. I know Mr. Cassidy was busy putting his other project together, Maritime Bus. If he has something new the council will sit down and look at it.”