Representatives for Centraide/United Way of Prescott-Russell pleaded with members of the United Counties of Prescott-Russell council (UCPR) during their August 26 teleconference session to set aside any thoughts about cancelling the regional public transit project. Anne Jutras and Denis Vaillancourt argued that PR Transpo has great potential benefit for seniors and rural residents in the area who may not have other means of transportation for doing grocery shopping, going to medical appointments, or dealing with other errands.
“Many residents of Prescott-Russell have no vehicle or are in a vulnerable situation, and could take advantage of this service,” said Jutras. “For many, the pandemic has increased their vulnerability.”
PR Transpo was created as part of a provincial government-sponsored pilot project to develop rural public transit systems in areas of Ontario where public transit did not exist. The provincial support funding covers a four-year operation period. The goal was to see if ridership numbers proved high enough at the end of the project period to interest a private sector operator in taking over the service.
PR Transpo began operation October 2019 but had to shut down after five months operation because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the past few months at UCPR council there has been talk about whether or not to suspend PR Transpo and ask the provincial government if the funding provided for the project could be put to other related transportation needs.
“Five months is not enough time to evaluate the success of the project,” said Vaillancourt, adding that UCPR council should allow the regional transit project to continue operations after the pandemic situation has ended.
Regional transit goals
« What is the goal of this project? » said Warden Pierre Leroux, adding he is not against PR Transpo. “My only worry is we don’t have a target. We have a goal, but not a target. We’re shooting blind.”
Alfred-Plantagenet Township Mayor Stéphane Sarrazin noted that the provincial government provided the money for the regional transit project. He agreed that PR Transpo should at least operate for a full year to provide a “proper evaluation” of its use and success.
“I’ve spoken to many people,” he said, “who say they would be willing to use it at least two or three times a month.”
Mayor Normand Riopel of Champlain Township and Mayor Paula Assaly of Hawkesbury both supported Sarrazin’s position. Warden Leroux noted that the PR Transpo situation will come up review again during a future UCPR council session.