Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Major steps forward for new transit program in St. Mary’s

SMART-GO funded for a three-year period

  • April 17 2024
  • By Joanne Jordan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

SHERBROOKE — A transit ride program that will serve communities in the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s has a new name – SMART-GO.

The citizen-led non-profit society formed to bring the project to fruition also has a new board of directors and recently hired an executive director.

“We are pleased to have her… [She] is working tirelessly to initiate the service for the community,” SMART-GO Board President Jerry Clarke said of Heather Kreffer.

The new executive director said she looks forward “to collaborating with the board and engaging with the public to create a more connected and inclusive community.”

Kreffer, who grew up in Pictou County, graduated from Acadia University with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree.

“I’ve spent my career in various leadership roles that have prepared me to spearhead SMART-GO’s vision,” she said.

With SMART-GO, users will be able to call for a ride, get picked up at their door, taken to their destination and then returned home.

Clarke said the society recently purchased its first vehicle, one equipped with a wheelchair lift, which can accommodate up to nine passengers. The transit and dispatch office, which is located at Sanctuary Shores, is being retrofitted for future operations.

Clarke and Kreffer indicated that the board anticipates increasing the fleet of vehicles to three in 2025, in order to accommodate the needs of the community.

SMART-GO has funding to cover a three-year period.

Kreffer said, “A combination of fares, partnerships, fundraising and government grants will be necessary to ensure our continued operation and sustainability.”

Clarke explained that, with the project in the planning and development stage, the board intends to have a community engagement session that will coincide with the soft launch of SMART-GO.

“The transit service is one that has been needed for some time and will enhance the accessibility to so many services for a great number of people. It will accommodate a feeling of independence and mobility for those that are presently in need of the aforementioned service,” he said.

According to Kreffer, the board is looking to add two new directors, and will have more information available closer to the project’s soft launch later this year. The society’s board continued discussions and planning during its most recent meeting on April 15.

“I am passionate about SMART-GO’s initiative to bring reliable transportation to the area,” Kreffer said. “I think an accessible community transit system is an essential service that will connect and empower the community. The board members are dedicated and focused on enriching the community with this service and I am proud to be a part of it.”

Along with Clarke, the SMART-GO board of directors includes Sherry Rose, vice-president; Wendy Shelly, secretary; Gary Mahar, treasurer; and Alice Mailman, director.

“I feel fortunate to work with such a great group of dedicated folks on our board. The focus has been one of community and prosperity advancement for the betterment of a positive change for all,” Clarke said.

“The transit project has the opportunity and ability to increase personal and business growth. As we grow, I feel that the outcome of accessibility will enhance the future endeavours of a thriving community.”