The town has decided an old solution is the best way to address a new problem.
Tour buses idling on King Street have been producing noise and air pollution that upsets residents, Coun. Gary Burroughs told fellow councillors at a committee of the whole meeting on Aug. 22.
“It took probably five years to get buses off King Street and suddenly they appear,” he said.
Before the pandemic, the town forced tour buses to park near Fort George and a shuttle bus brought people into downtown.
That service was suspended after the tourism industry was hit by COVID lockdowns and travel restrictions, but now the town has decided to bring it back.
Burroughs said residents put up quite a fight to get them out.
“People used to lay down on the road blocking buses,” he said.
Residents are not just riled up over pollution, though.
“It’s not just the fumes for me, there is also a potential safety issue there,” Coun. Allan Bisback said.
The town is losing money on the buses as well.
When tour buses parked at Fort George the town could collect $52 per parking space.
Now, they sit in parking spaces on King Street, some of them idling to keep the air-conditioning pumping.
Burroughs also pointed out that they were parking at metered spots, which would otherwise generate parking revenue for the town.
Kyle Freeborn, the town’s treasurer, estimated the town is losing about $3,000 a week by using the metered spots on King Street as a bus stop.
While drivers are encouraged to park at Fort George, Burroughs suggested some will cruise around town to avoid paying the parking fee.
“Sometimes there’s nothing that we can hold them to, to make them go there,” said acting director of operations Kevin Turcotte.
He brought some potential solutions to council on Monday, Aug. 29, after council instructed town staff to make solving the bus problem a priority.
One option was to enforce the town’s anti-idling policy more strictly, the other was to use the shuttle service to carry tourists from the fort to Old Town, which council approved unanimously.
Turcotte estimated it will cost the town about $64,500 to run a two-bus shuttle service for eight hours a day from now until Oct. 9.
He also reported that 41 per cent of bus riders use the shuttle for round trips.
“That suggests that the rest are either walking both ways, or walking one way, or just staying at the fort,” he added.