Senior Wheels reflects service changes with re-brand to Lunenburg County Wheels


  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>The Senior Wheels bus mobile on Aberdeen Road in Bridgewater last year.</p>

BRIDGEWATER - A long-standing dial-a-ride public transportation service in Lunenburg County has changed things up.

They have re-branded and now charge a fare instead of offering by-donation rides.

Enter the era of Lunenburg County Wheels (LCW), the new entity replacing Senior Wheels. "The service and drivers are "pretty well the same," said LCW board president Jerome Tanner, but the objectives evolved because of the need for additional funding support to keep vehicles on the road.

"Our mission statement has completely changed," Tanner said in an interview. "If we can assist anyone with transportation, that's what we're here for."

Established by the Kiwanis Club of Bluenose Golden K, Senior Wheels and its volunteer team of drivers had a tradition of transporting pre-booked older adults and people with disabilities in Bridgewater, and within a seven kilometre radius, to and from appointments and other obligations since the early 1990s.

Financial pressures linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, reduced availability of volunteers and limitations of serving a specific clientele forced Senior Wheels to re-examine itself.

For the year ending March 2021, financial information available on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website showed Senior Wheels revenues of $8,421 and expenses of $44,898. Roughly $16,000 of the expenses were attributed to travel and vehicle costs.

With $36,000 from the province, a Halifax County-based consulting firm Third Sector Enhancement carried out feasibility and implementation planning on Senior Wheels' behalf last year.

CRA information for March 2022, the most recently available, indicated travel and vehicle expenses were over $19,000 and, while revenues quadrupled from the previous year, overall expenses went up another $10,000.

The change to LCW and opening up its ridership to all Bridgewater residents recently took effect. It remains a registered charity. "We kept the Senior Wheels Association as, sort of, a parent organization and created Lunenburg County Wheels as our operating brand, is probably the best way to call it," Tanner said.

A $2.50 one-way fare and $5 return fee is charged to riders travelling within the Bridgewater area. To learn more about LCW and its services, go to https://lcw.ruralrides.ca. The phone number to book rides (call at least 24 hours in advance) is 902-543-2255.

LCW is now awaiting word on whether or not it's been successful securing federal rural transit funding, which would lead it down the road to broadening the service to the towns of Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. Tanner said the money from Ottawa would help buy four vans, to complement its existing 2020 van and 2019 bus.

"I expect we'll soon hear from that (federal agency) and that's going to really decide whether we move forward with an expansion or not," Tanner noted, "but, in the meantime, starting in February, we're going to extend a bit toward New Germany and see how that works out a couple of days a week."

Given the help provided by the private sector, other charities and the public sector, LCW's finances are looking good, Tanner added. LCW is part of a rural transportation association.

LCW also has its first staffer; a full-time operations manager, a position that'll take the strain off the board of directors who were responsible for most tasks. Tanner said LCW is also looking into the potential of paying drivers given the challenge of finding volunteers.

"We want to expand," Tanner said, "and we want to see if we can deliver it."

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