The City of Mount Pearl is looking into costs it incurs for Metrobus services and the possibility of having its own bus service. - Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Mount Pearl has launched a fact finding mission to see if it's worth it to have its own public transit system.
Mayor Randy Simms told The Telegram this week the cost his city pays to Metrobus each year is significant enough for the city to at least have a look to see if Mount Pearl could run its own bus service.
"It is the largest, single subsidized service provided by the city of Mount Pearl," Simms said of the approximately $800,000 annual bill.
The service actually costs more than that, but the cost is reduced by the amount of ridership revenue collected from the routes which travel to and from the city.
"The question we want to look at is how can we come up with a system that is more effective and more user friendly and maybe better ... than what we have now, and what would it cost us to do it," Simms said.
But there are a number of other questions the city hopes to get answers to by conducting the $30,000 study.
Those questions include can the city provide a service which moves people both through and around Mount Pearl - as well as bring people back and forth to St. John's - and why more people in Mount Pearl don't ride the bus now.
"One of the questions we need to answer is, are they not using the public transit because it's not adequate to their needs or are they not using public transit because, quite frankly, Mount Pearl doesn't need a lot of public transit," the mayor said.
Simms added he'd like to encourage more people to use public transit.
Other questions that the study will answer include can the city use smaller buses - which are cheaper -for inner city routes and could a Mount Pearl transit system still feed into the Metrobus system.
Simms also said the city isn't doing its study in isolation. Mount Pearl is using the same consultant - Dillon Consulting - which conducted the Metrobus study.
"It showed that some kind of a regional mechanism might be a better approach. We're going to look at that as well," Simms said
The mayor noted that the city meets with Metrobus on a regular basis and reviews the Mount Pearl routes at least once a year.
"Metrobus has been more than accommodating in trying to maximize both their return ... and our return and to maximize ridership through the Mount Pearl run," Simms said.
St. John's city Coun. Tom Hann is chairman of the St. John's Transportation Commission, which oversees Metrobus.
He told The Telegram he doesn't know why Mount Pearl is doing the study.
"If the end result is to have their own transit system, then ... in my opinion they are going down the wrong road," he said.
Hann said besides buses, Mount Pearl would have to invest in a bus depot, mechanics and drivers.
He said the commission would be happy to work with Mount Pearl to enhance the current Metrobus service, and it would cost much less.
"It would be a lot cheaper than building their own system I can guarantee you that," Hann said.
The commission, and the City of St. John's is advocating a regional transit system for the Northeast Avalon.
But Hann said the other communities in the region would have to buy in, as would the provincial government.
The Mount Pearl study should be done within four months and will include public consultations for current bus riders and for those who don't currently ride the bus.