• Hannah Sabourin

Cantley may axe bus service due to cost and low usage

Cantley’s bus service was temporarily saved from the chopping block by the mayor’s veto during a recent council meeting.


Municipal councillors voted 4-2 against renewing a $226,115 contract with Transcollines for 2023 to 2025 during Cantley’s Oct. 11 council meeting.


Cantley Mayor David Gomes used his veto power to suspend the council’s decision. The vote is now delayed until the next meeting — whether a special council meeting or the regularly scheduled one on Nov. 8.


Gomes agreed with councillors who made a comment about the high cost of the service. He said that there are 114 regular Transcollines users in 2022.


Despite the cost of Transcollines, “it would be wrong of me to stop public transportation,” said Gomes, who also sits on the Transcollines committee. “We need to ask why people don’t take [the bus].”


Gomes speculated that the bus schedule – which leaves once for Gatineau at 7 a.m. and returns at 5 p.m. – could be the main reason why many people don’t rely on the service.


Ward 1 Coun. Nathalie Belisle and Ward 3 Coun. Philippe Normandin voted for renewing the Transcollines contract — a service that has been available in the municipality since 2015 and serves rural Outaouais communities. However, the rest of the council voted against it, citing the cost of the service compared to the number of users.


For a Cantley father of two kids in high school, Transcollines is a necessary municipal service.


Jean-François Doré’s kids use the service in the morning and afternoon to get to and from school.


The 932 route – whose circulation began in 2021 – was created to reach three schools in Gatineau, including Nouvelle Frontière, D’Arcy McGee, and the CÉGEP du Gatineau. “It was specially created for students and it matched the school itineraries,” explained Doré.


“There may be circuits that are not being used at all. But the 932 is always full — morning and evening,” remarked Doré. He also praised the bus' convenience and reliability: “It’s never late, my kids always get to school on time,” he said. “The service is excellent.”


Without the bus service, Doré said he would need to drive his kids to and from school every day.


During the Oct. 11 meeting, Ward 4 Coun. Sarah Plamondon said: “It’s a lot of money for the few people who use public transportation. I know that we live in the suburbs, and I know transportation is hard for everyone.” Plamondon explained that she had to drive her kid to Gatineau so that they could take the STO and commute to university.


Plamondon offered a solution: “There should be a central point where the bus could pick everyone up — not a bunch of little bus stops,” she suggested. “I would be interested in that. We need to ameliorate the budget. For this reason, I am voting against it. But we need to find a solution.”


Doré challenged Plamondon’s arguments: “The older generation is stuck in their older habits and they don’t want to grow. [...] We need to grow, we don’t want to take a step backwards.”


At the council meeting, Ward 6 Coun. Jean-Nicolas De Bellefeuille said the municipality is spending senseless money on a bus service that no one uses. He also said that it is bad to have a bus service that runs when the buses are empty.


“There’s nothing that is stopping us from bringing back the service next year if the demand is there,” continued De Bellefeuille.


Councillors bounced around the idea of creating a new public transportation system — one that could address municipal needs but also save taxpayers money.


On Oct. 12, the day after the council meeting, president of Transcollines and La Pêche councillor Francis Beausoleil sent out a public statement to address Cantley’s dilemma: “As an elected municipal official, I understand the concern to have a service that meets the needs of citizens.”


MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais prefect, Marc Carrière, said that Cantley should do what they feel is best suited for their budget and social needs. He said that four municipalities within the MRC pay for Transcollines services, including La Pêche, Vals-des-Monts, Chelsea, and Cantley.


Before making its decision, Cantley council is inviting all residents to express their opinion on the Transcollines issue during their Oct. 26 public consultation. This meeting will be held at the Cantley community centre, 6, impasse des Étoiles à Cantley, at 7 p.m.