Dateline: September 2006
SUBJECT: The Eastern Shore Bus
Meeting Presentation by Anthony Weller
Maritime Center, 1505 Barrington Street, Halifax
14th Floor North. Boardroom A
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
In Attendance: Fred Davis, ACOA; Gerald Gabriel, HRDA; Marcus
Garnet, HRM Planning; Marvin MacDonald, Service NS; Bill Oland,
NS Economic Development; Karen Ramsland, Service NS; Brian Taylor,
HRM Transit; Dave White UARB; Dave White Transit, Anthony Weller,
Sheet Harbour resident, Presenter
I want to thank you all for agreeing to this meeting.
It will be obvious I am not accustomed to giving speeches and
it is not much fun writing them either. And no doubt you are all
very busy so this will be brief. About 15 minutes. To begin, no
doubt each of us has an entirely separate cache of information
with regard to the Eastern Shore Bus Dilemma; also a wide range
of knowledge and experience with regard to the Eastern Shore in
general. So, first a little background.
Eastern Shore Bus Circa 1939
I think the time and place to start is June 2005 at the Lion's
Club in Sheet Harbour at a Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board
Hearing. The company that had been running the Eastern Shore Bus
service had applied to drop the run. If you look over his company's
history, he had his reasons. I spoke to him after the hearing.
As with all crumbling relationships, he had a long list of grievances
and from his standpoint it was just time to go.
From the point of view of those at the hearing representing passengers,
who could stop him if he wanted to go? Besides, he had done nothing
in the many years he had operated the run, to improve the run.
It was always just an old school bus with a suspension destroyed
by the horrible condition of the number 7 highway. The crashing
and rattling were deafening.
I wonder if anyone here ever rode that bus. Its only saving grace
was the driver Mike, an unsung hero in my book. My home, two hours
from Dartmouth was not even halfway to where he drove every night
of the week, and back into the city next morning for 17 plus years!
Astonishing. He was alert, knowledgeable and dependable. What
more could you ask?
But the point is, like me, every one attending the Review board
hearing, whether they were there to represent themselves or to
represent others, they were there for only one reason to impress
upon the panelists how essential a bus service was to the Eastern
Shore. Youth too young to drive explained there was no other reliable
and safe means to navigate the shore. Many times over the years
I remember Mike and I up front and a couple of kids, cuddling,
giggling, bouncing around in back, one of them going to or coming
from the other's community.
Eastern Shore History. Also at the hearing several businesses
pointed to the bus as a reliable cargo carrier. I remember quite
a number of cargo stops Mike had, at points across the twin cities
and along the shore.
The Review Board Panelists were also informed of a potential
revenue source I was reminded of just last week. My friend and
I were driving out from Dartmouth. There were three people, a
family, fishing from the government wharf in Murphy's cove. While
we talked the teenage son cast for macmackerel from his wheelchair.
They had driven the fifty miles from Dartmouth purely because
this was a wheelchair accessible fishing site. His mother naturally
asked if an Eastern Shore Bus would be wheelchair accessible.
And I relate this little aside because she just happened to be
the most recent in a long line right back to the review board
hearing over a year ago advocating for wheel chair accessibility.
Also at that hearing individuals and representatives from a variety
of groups described vital city healthcare connections and numerous
other country-city connections including the fact the bus was
our only link to another bus to the airport and a direct connection
to Via Rail. And I would love to bore you with nearing two decades
of my own personal experience with that bus. But I would be telling
stories into the night.
Those unable to attend that midday hearing, either because they
were working or because they were unable to secure transportation,
signed a petition to serve in their absence. Two-thousand one-hundred
and fifty-seven signatures. All advocating for our lifeline, our
critical link to endless numbers of things.
Since that hearing a year ago the bus company has been released
from its role, to be replaced with first one, then another, Eastern
Shore Bus Service, neither of which, to my knowledge, was ever
claimed to represent final solution. In fact, my impression was
that these were merely temporary, interim substitutions until
something more permanent could be worked out. Also since that
Review Board Hearing the Ecology Action Group and the Eastern
HRM partnership council have added their support to an Eastern
Shore Bus Service. Councilor Steve Streach, on behalf of his constituents,
of course, has lobbied at the hearing and has been active since
the hearing in keeping the issue alive. Also since the hearing
there is an extensive list of advocates to add to the 2005, 2000
All this considered, I am going to assume, at least for the duration
of this presentation, we are in agreement there will be an Eastern
Shore Bus Service in one form or another, paid for by one means
THE EASTERN SHORE
Just what is it that defines the Eastern Shore? My own experience
is that even within this province little is known of this two-hundred
mile, thinly populated, jagged line of latitude running from Dartmouth
to Canso. I have heard South Shore residents say, ôEastern
Shore? There's nothing out there!ö It is a provincial curiosity
that the South Shore, the French, Fundy and Northumberland Shores
all have relatively well established personalities compared to
the Eastern Shore. If you think about it the South Shore is filled
with images all the way to Yarmouth. The French Shore, especially
with the resurgence of Cajun culture is a burst of Acadia. The
Fundy Shore is all about dramatic tide changes and the Northumberland
Shore has the Trans Canada Highway and an attractive partner across
the strait. Eastern Shore images rarely come to mind.
There are reasons for this. Fifteen years ago the fishing moratorium
rendered the Eastern Shore's character instantly invisible. This
seems to be happening more and more these days. Communities bottom
out after the activities which largely defined them are for one
reason or another, discontinued. Stora is another powerful example
of influence on community identity. Residents remain loyal to
the Eastern Shore, of course, because it is home. Also, of course,
no community is ever defined by just one or two things.
is nothing at all mind-blowing on the Eastern Shore and
therein lies its beautiful secret".
The fact is, the primary features in the character of the Eastern
Shore remain hidden in sheer remoteness. Along this long thin
line not only does traditional rural independence isolate residents
from each other their loyalties are traditionally divided between
Halifax-Dartmouth, Truro, New Glasgow, Antigonish and the Strait
Area. You are not likely to see a collective Eastern Shore uprising
on this issue, in other words. But the point of this is to suggest
that the character of the Eastern Shore is spread through every
unique individual and every diverse community along the shore.
There is nothing at all mind-blowing on the Eastern Shore like
the bikinis of Queensland, the Bluenose in Lunenburg, a ferry
to another country, Cajun music, forty foot tides or PEI at sunset.
There is nothing at all mind-blowing on the Eastern Shore and
therein lies its beautiful secret.
If you ask individual residents from Dartmouth to Canso what
defines the Eastern Shore, using at least one very precise and
personal example, virtually everyone will call attention to the
outdoors. Nature. Hiking back to the lakes, fishing, walking the
beaches, hiking the trails, picking the berries, hunting for mushrooms,
coasting the shoreline, photographing wildlife, tent-site camping
and cooking over open fires and miniature stoves. Number 7 traffic
for as long as I can remember has always included canoes, kayaks
and mountain bikes. The Eastern Shore is an outdoor persons paradise
and this message has never really been sent.
In other words, given the potential in transporting cargo along
this shore, and given that local ridership would almost certainly
improve with assured service and an appropriate vehicle, the real
profitability and utility in running this bus can actually derive
in delivering city dwellers to the Eastern Shore. This is a natural.
these days of ecological and economic awareness, a bus is
the perfect alternative... to offer city dwellers a getaway".
Across Canada city people love escaping their cities, especially
if it is to a beach or to a lake and among the Eastern Shore's
main claims to fame are its beaches and its lakes. You really
do have to see them to believe them. And in these days of ecological
and economic awareness a bus is the perfect alternative. It would
offer city dwellers a getaway. It would have fold-down bicycle
racks and it would deliver hikers, bikers, campers and fitness
seekers to campsites, motels, bed-and-breakfasts along the shore
from which they would do their thing for a day or two or three
before returning via bus to the city. New fare structure and schedule,
perhaps weekend packages, to be established. Pictured across the
sides of the bus within a beautiful stretch of Eastern Shore coastline
would read something like EShore Getaway, or EShore Escape.
Maybe in one year, definitely in two, this bus would have to
show a profit. It would have to show a profit because unlike all
previous scenarios this bus collects both ways. Local people in
and out. City people out and in. Local real estate demand and
retail sales would be stimulated. There would necessarily be increased
demand for Eastern Shore services and attractions. This bus could
actually provide stimulus for moratorium recovery and a long list
of disappointments since.
The bus would carry 12-18 passengers, have storage locations
for cargo and passenger gear. It would be wheelchair accessible
and it would have fold-down bike racks. Quoting a site on the
web, ôA third of all transit buses in North America have
bike racks, with front-loading racks being the most popular method.
The racks vary in carrying capacity from 2-3 bikes on front racks
to 5 in rear racks. Although bus operators are trained in the
operation of the racks, passengers are usually responsible for
loading, securing and removing their bikes from the racks. Having
a bike available at both ends of a cyclist's journey provides
greater flexibility and convenience. The 1999 Toronto Cycling
Survey indicated that 48% of recreational cyclists cited distance
as the major reason they don't use their bikes to travel to work
or school. In the same survey, 950,000 cyclists reported bike
racks on buses would increase the number of trips they made.ö
Unquote. This means, besides the whole new untapped market of
city people, local use can also be increased, perhaps in conjunction
with the metro bus now running to Porter's Lake. Tourists are
only reachable for a few short months. City-dwellers are reachable
through spring and fall on both sides of the tourist season, which
we all know are some of Nova Scotia's finest times of the year.
Special trips to places like Sherbrooke Pioneer Village and Stan
Rogers folk festival could also supplement revenues. Already mentioned,
there is cargo to pick up and deliver, also the occasional wheelchair
fisherman. This bus can make money.
But to expect success merely by enabling an appropriate vehicle
is nonsense. On the other side of the equation, equally essential,
is a budget for promotion. Everything related to Eastern Shore
bus information, trail and accommodation options would appear
on the Provincial website, of course. It would also be splashed
across the sides of the bus. It would also be on brochures and
maps distributed to outfitters, equipment suppliers, schools,
bikers, hikers and campers associations; where the beaches are,
where the trails are, where you can rent a canoe, where you can
ride your bike, where you can set up your tent and how much it
is all going to cost. Everyone understands the power and utility
in professionally produced promotional maps and brochures. Both
HRM and the Province have great experience in this area. There
should be no problem in establishing an accurate, adequate advertising
No one would ever deny that modern dilemmas are complex. But
we create our own complexities. Just for example. . . all these
names, fewer than half responded to the letter. And I'm not really
sure how all of you relate to these names. There is all this information
from the Review Board Hearing, which I feel has been displaced
in this discussion, and I'll bet, as I suggested in the beginning
today, no doubt you all have your own stacks of information, not
necessarily even related to this stack. This is exactly what killed
the fishery. A diverse field of diverse vested interests unable
or unwilling to relax their mandates enough even to admit a problem,
and most troubling of all, seeming unable even to communicate.
This may be tremendously naive, but I cannot help but feel this
is one of those perfect opportunities to do something right. To
show how the system can work. Democracy in action. All levels
of government and private enterprise working together to achieve
something of lasting and stimulating value. Something to look
back on with pride. Your tax dollars were not thrown at a problem.
Three levels of government and one of private enterprise accurately
predicted the two-year costs in purchasing, operating and promoting
a viable project; they transparently merged their resources and
their mandates into a sensible, socially progressive and profitable,
everybody-wins business enterprise. Everybody enters the project
with the shared assumption the project will be successful because
To the point last week when this issue began to demand my complete
attention my firm opinion was that HRM's expansion to Ecum Secum
was an intrusion and had only served to further obscure Eastern
Shore's elusive identity. In my case this was literal reality.
HRM's arrival in my own community was heralded by uninvited streetlights
suddenly installed in a line up the road with one planted right
at the end of my driveway. Now, the city phenomenon known as light
pollution has obscured my once completely dark and spectacular
night sky. Knowing what a loss this represented to me, my son
- past president of the Acadia Christian Fellowship, happily married,
doesn't drink, smoke or swear, so you can imagine, offered to
extinguish at least the nearest offender at the end of the driveway.
He is a very experienced rock-skipper.
Of course, such an action would have started an avalanche of
unhinged time and attention so I could only express my gratitude
for his understanding. But like lemons to lemonade it struck me
last week there might just be an Eastern Shore advantage in HRM
expansion. It would be the dedicated introduction to the city
dwellers of HRM, to be included within widespread city promotional
brochures and maps and certainly across the sides of our new bus,
Here's where else you can go in HRM!
RR 1 Spry Harbour
Tangier NS B0J 3H0
anthonyweller at ns.sympatico.ca
Think globally, Act Locally!
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