Why does Prescott-Russell need a transit system?

“One of the big challenges is that people feel isolated,” says Pierre Leroux, the chair of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell’s economic development committee.

The UCPR was recently awarded $2 million from the province to develop two transportation programs within the region. The majority of those funds, $1.5 million, will go towards developing an inter-municipal transit system while the rest will go towards a transportation program dedicated to vulnerable individuals.

Before the vehicles hit the road, there are still many details to hash out including times, routes and even service provider.

Carole Lavigne, the UCPR’s director of economic development, says her department will be releasing a survey and hosting public consultation sessions in mid-July to help sculpt the transit program. The other program will be administered through the Champlain Community Transportation Collaborative in partnership with a swath of other community partners like Maison Interlude, Victim Services, Valoris, etc.

Long-term viability

The funding is spread over five years and is enough, Leroux says, to get things up and running. He’s unconvinced there will be funding from the province past that time.

“With the new government coming into power, I don’t think they’re exactly transit-friendly,” he says. “If there’s no funding for it, it makes things quite difficult to put something in place long-term. “

Nonetheless, Leroux sees the need for transit to stick around, and that could take a different form.

Lavigne says the program could help with the labour shortage in the region.

If we offer public transportation, it may attract more people to our region and fill positions that are available,” she says.  

Leroux imagined multiple routes servicing different parts of Prescott-Russell. For example, one running through Hawkesbury, East Hawkesbury and Champlain with another servicing the western part of Prescott-Russell. But right now, Lavigne says her department is looking at establishing a route in the north and another in the south.

Regardless of routes, each would be serviced by a 20-seat buses with the capacity to have two wheelchairs on board. Each bus would run the route twice daily, at fixed times, for five days a week.

While many details are left to determine, Lavigne hopes the program will be up by October 1 this year.