Hop-on-hop-off bus coming to tourist town

A free bus service is coming to Saint Andrews this summer, supported by several organizations in the community.

A hop-on-hop-off bus will run on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. until 5 p.m. throughout July and August, stopping at the Hunstman Marine Science Centre, the intersection of Queen and King streets, Kingsbrae Garden, the Algonquin Hotel and the Welcome Centre at the W.C. O'Neill Arena Complex, giving tourists and year-round residents alike another way of getting around town.

The six-stop loop will be about 35 minutes long.

Chris Bridger, executive director of the Huntsman Marine Science Centre, said his organization wanted to spearhead the free bus service in order to entice tourists to visit the aquarium, which is located about three kilometres away from the town's historic downtown.

During peak tourist season, finding parking downtown can be "a bit of a nightmare," which might discourage travellers from popping down to the aquarium and then heading back downtown for dinner, Bridger said.

The stop at the campground means people camping in buses or with fifth-wheels can also easily head to the Huntsman without packing up camp.

The Huntsman owns the 11-person bus, which is wheelchair-accessible, for its many educational programs.

"The bus gives us the opportunity," he said. "My perspective is visitation to the aquarium, but by soing so, we're moving people around the community, to the beenfit of others."

Saint Andrews town council voted unanimously to support the project by providing signage to the stop signs, with councillors hoping the project can expand beyond its pilot project.

Deputy mayor Kate Akagi noted a similar bus loop runs on Canada Day and doesn't get "tons" of riders, but works well.

"It would be well worthwhile," she said.

Coun. Marc Blanchard said he'd like to see the bus increase its stops, and wanted the town to explore the cost of continuing the service in the future.

Town mayor Brad Henderson, also director of operations for Kingsbrae Garden, said the 11-seat bus is owned by the Hunstman, but if interest "takes off" the marina would consider buying a bigger bus.

He added user data had been requested by all the participating organizations.

Bridger added the Huntsman's long-term goal is to increase its annual visitors from 33,000 a year to approximately 100,000 per year by 2044, as outlined in the aquarium's long-term strategic vision.

"To take those big steps, someone needs to have public transportation in the community," he said.

"If it's a success, hopefully we'll get good numbers and see where it goes in the future."

Marlo Glass, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal