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Rough road ahead for PR-Transpo

The road ahead looks bumpy for Prescott-Russell (PR) Transpo, and it falls to the eight mayors of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) to decide the future of public transit.

At the UCPR Council meeting on Thursday 26th January a statistical report on PR-Transpo ridership, revenue and expenditure was presented. According to the report, the service has cost $1,158,608.38 to develop and maintain since 2018. PR-Transpo was developed with the idea of ​​providing accessible and affordable transportation to residents who do not have their own vehicle, have limited mobility or want environmentally friendly transportation alternative.

From April 30, 2018 to May 30, 2021, PR-Transpo offered a fixed route service with scheduled stops in all municipalities of the UCPR. However, low ridership prompted the UCPR to switch PR-Transpo to an on-demand service from June 2021.

Only 234 users have switched to the on-demand service since then

Since switching to the on-demand service, PR-Transpo has boarded its two 20-passenger minibuses, which are operated on behalf of Leduc Bus Lines, a total of 6,167 times. However, the boardings only represented a total of 234 users. The city of Hawkesbury had the highest number of boardings with 2,234 or 36 percent of boardings – representing 28 percent of users.

The service was again temporarily suspended on December 23, 2022, with a scheduled return on February 12, 2023. However, PR-Transpo’s service is now suspended indefinitely. This was announced by Chief Administrative Officer Stéphane Parisien The review The service normally takes a break during the holiday season, but the UCPR staffer who oversaw the transit program left the position in late 2022. Parisien explained the pause is now indefinite, pending which council decides the future of the program.

PR-Transpo was developed as a pilot project to last until 2025. It receives $2,975,534.90 in grants from the Ontario Department of Transportation’s Community Transportation Grant Program. The UCPR has committed to providing $140,000 of its own funds to the service over a seven-year period.

From June 2021 to December 2022, fare revenue for PR-Transpo was $33,892.71. Operating expenses were $685,626.75 and service costs were $651,734.04.

“The bottom line is not looking good,” Parisien told the UCPR council on Jan. 26.

“It’s not sustainable, nor is it viable in its current form,” he noted.

mayor respond

There was skepticism among the mayors about the viability of PR-Transpo.

Hawkesbury Mayor Robert Lefebvre asked whether the UCPR’s financial contribution to PR-Transpo was a general budget contribution or whether there were any conditions attached.

Chief of Staff Olivier Berthiaume, who prepared the report, said it was a special contribution made as a condition of receiving the grant from the Ontario government.

Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux, referring to a recent meeting he attended with Premier Doug Ford, implied that PR transpo costs too much, no matter where the money comes from.

“He (Ford) always says it doesn’t matter where the money comes from, there is only one taxpayer. You know, that’s a hard pill to swallow,” Leroux said.

“I tend to agree,” added Warden Normand Riopel.

The nation’s mayor, Francis Brière, also approved of Leroux and Riopel.

“What steps do we need to take if we decide to break free from this program?” asked Briere.

Parisien said discussions on options for PR-Transpo would take place during the Jan. 26 closed session of the council meeting. On Jan. 27, Parisien said no further details about PR-Transpo’s future were publicly available.

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