The latest effort to boost numbers on the Comex bus, travelling from Kennebecasis Valley into Saint John, will see the service offered for free until the end of the year, beginning on Nov. 1.
"What's better than riding a 40-foot limo?" asked the Town of Quispamsis in a social media post. "Riding a 40-foot limo for free, of course."
The post goes on to say the weekday Comex bus 52, with stops in Quispamsis and in Rothesay, will be free to all passengers from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.
The bus arrives at King's Square at 7:40 and 8:50 a.m. and departs Saint John at 4:05 and 5:15 p.m.
In an email, town spokesperson Aaron Kennedy said Quispamsis has offered different promotions to increase ridership in the past. The free service is the latest iteration.
In early August, a survey launched by the Town of Quispamsis sought feedback from both regular Comex riders and those who don't use the service. It asked participants questions such as preferred arrival and departure times, whether riders need to transfer to other routes and what factors would make non-users consider taking the bus.
According to the survey results, the majority of users are happy with the current arrival and departures times, said Kennedy.
"We might consider a very slight tweak to the afternoon departures by five or 10 minutes just to make it a little easier for folks who get off work at 4 p.m.," he wrote. "Quispamsis is committed to seeing the Comex service flourish."
On July 5, route 53, known as the Quispamsis route, stopped running and was replaced by additional stops on route 52, which goes through Quispamsis and Rothesay. At that time, there was a reduction in daily trips for route 52 – down from three in the morning and four in the evening to just two in both the morning and afternoon.
Coun. Mike Biggar, who sits on the Comex committee, said the aim of the two-month free service is to give people the chance to make riding the bus a part of their daily routine.
"Maybe if we give this a couple of months, people have the chance to build a little bit of a rhythm, which, of course, is important to everybody's morning commute," he said. "(Riding the bus) reduces stress, it reduces pollution, it reduces cars on the road and anxiety over driving."
The Comex Bus Service is operated by Saint John Transit with subsidies from the towns of Rothesay and Quispamsis. In 2021, Comex was expected to cost Quispamsis a total of $173,088, with Rothesay paying $83,500.
- With files from Emma McPhee
Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal