“I’m hoping to present something to the economic development committee this month,” said Carole Lavigne, economic development and tourism director for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR).
The PR Transpo service has been sidelined since spring when the provincial government declared a public health state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent announcement confirmed the state of emergency orders will remain in effect until mid-July even as Phase Two begins of the Ontario economic restart program.
Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney announced June 14 a safety guidelines document for municipal and regional public transit services. The focus is to help services that were suspended during the early days of the pandemic to prepare themselves to resume operations.
“This guidance for transit agencies will provide consistent, clear and practical information that transit agencies can use to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” stated Mulroney.
The document provides advice on modifying buses with protective barriers between drivers and passengers, setting up physical markers between seats, disinfection procedures for vehicles before, during and after travel, and public hygiene protocols, including social distancing and use of face masks.
PR Transpo preparation
Lavigne has discussed public health safety needs with Leduc Bus Lines, which operates the PR Transpo system, for when the public transit service resumes. She is also contacting the operators of various long-term care and seniors retirement facilities located on or near designated PR Transpo routes. One thing she wants to know is whether the operators of those facilities have any concerns about having a public transit stop located nearby while the pandemic situation continues.
“We don’t want to be encouraging any vulnerable persons to use the bus,” said Lavigne.
PR Transpo began operation October 2019, providing bus service between villages and towns in Prescott-Russell. Lavigne noted that a proper analysis of the first year of operation is not possible, given the temporary suspension during the pandemic.
“It (ridership numbers) won’t be representative of what we could have had,” she said, adding that some information is still available about service use.
“We did see more people using it in the east than in the west,” she said, regarding ridership numbers for Casselman, Embrun and Rockland, compared to Hawkesbury. Lavigne noted that more promotional marketing in the eastern part of Prescott-Russell may be needed when PR Transpo resumes service.
Right now her focus is on reviewing all the information she and her staff are collecting to create a “made in Prescott-Russell” restart plan for PR Transpo to present to the economic development committee.