When I visited the UK earlier this year I noted a couple of interesting things about transit.
First, inter-community transit (even between small communities in rural Scotland) was affordable on private bus lines. I recently heard a talking head on some radio show suggest that this is due to subsidies. Perhaps subsidies are something needed to maintain an inter-city bus service.
Second, very small communities have municipal transit. By small I mean communities with under 5,000 people. A ride on one of these buses wasn’t dirt cheap, but it was an affordable way for me to get around without a car. Again subsidies are probably at play. Perhaps though, even without major subsidies communities like Rothesay/Quispamsis could be serviced by buses (possible revenue opportunity for Saint John Transit).
If we as a community and province value transit services, perhaps we need to go beyond a user-pay system. A situation of subsidizing transportation infrastructure for certain parts of the population has already been embraced by our governments, with the tolls being removed from Harbour Bridge (which is now maintained by a private contract) and the Province committing to remove the fee from the Grand Manan Ferry (which is run by a private firm).
In a community where most who can afford to own a car do choose to drive, it may be hard for decision to rationalize a bus subsidy. Perhaps we need to give more power to the car-less as citizens in making transportation decisions.