By Tina Comeau
A hearing will be held Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 5, to help determine whether Hut’s Transit will be allowed to pick up students near the Yarmouth high school to transport them downtown over their lunch hour.
Hut’s Transit, operated by Gary Hudson, has made an application to the province’s Utility and Review Board (URB), which is holding a public hearing at the Grand Hotel at 1 p.m.
Hudson wants to have a scheduled bus stop near the high school so students can get to and from the downtown within their allotted lunch hour and not have to walk there to do it. He also notes that downtown businesses rely on the lunch hour business from students.
With the high school now located on Forest Street, students and businesses approached Hudson last year asking him to provide such a service. He was giving rides to students earlier in this school year at a round trip cost of $2. But a complaint was made to the URB and he had to stop. Some days up to 22 students were being transported downtown using two vans.
The service Hut’s Transit wants to offer is a private business service and is not related to the high school or the school board.
Still, because this involves students, the Tri-County Regional School Board has sent a letter to the URB opposing Hudson’s application. It says its concern stems from the fact that Hut’s Transit would be transporting students in a van that seats 14 passengers, plus the driver. School boards are prohibited by the province from transporting students in these types of vans and school board superintendent Lisa Doucet says if the board is not allowed to use these vans then it cannot support allowing someone else to do this.
“The proposed amendment to the Hut's Transit licence is intended only to facilitate the movement of students from the Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School to downtown Yarmouth at lunch hour and not for any identifiable educational, extra-curricular or other school-related activity,” Doucet writes in a letter submitted to the URB by the school board. “Allowing students to be transported in a van that transports up to 14 passengers, as proposed by Hut's Transit, would place students at unnecessary risk for purposes of little value to their education or social development.
“We appreciate that Hut's Transit is making efforts to improve the quality of life for the residents of this region, but we feel that the proposed addition to its Motor Carriage Licence is unnecessary and ill advised, in the circumstances,” Doucet adds in the letter. “Thank you for this opportunity to make submissions to the (URB) on this matter of significant importance to the youth and families in our community.”
However, although Doucet and other senior board management have expressed concerns, when the issue came up for discussion at a school board meeting last month, not all elected board members shared the same view. Some around the table noted the distance the students would be travelling is very short and suggested it was safer to have them in a vehicle as opposed to having them walk along streets that might not have a sidewalk and are busy with traffic.
Hudson notes that when it comes to safety, this is a big priority for him and his business. He said his drivers are trained to safely transport passengers – a service the business has been offering for 17 years.