South­ern Al­berta bus ser­vice gets fund­ing from Al­berta gov­ern­ment

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Farm News - BY COLLIN GAL­LANT—

The prov­ince will put in $700,000 to set up a pri­vately op­er­ated bus ser­vice be­tween Medicine Hat and Leth­bridge, with stops at nine towns on High­way 3 as well as Red­cliff, Premier Rachel Not­ley an­nounced July 25.

The two-year pi­lot project, an­nounced at the City of Medicine Hat’s bus barns dur­ing the premier’s visit, also in­volves a sim­i­lar project near Red Deer. Two other pro­grams in the Grande Prairie area and Cam­rose were laid out in June, and this month Grey­hound an­nounced it would end Western routes in Oc­to­ber.

Not­ley said July 25 that while the Al­berta Trans­porta­tion pro­gram was an­nounced last spring, it will form the ba­sis of a larger strat­egy to ad­dress gaps left by Grey­hound.

“It’s very con­cern­ing for us as a gov­ern­ment,” said Not­ley. “Many Al­ber­tans in smaller com­mu­ni­ties are frus­trated with a lack of pub­lic trans­porta­tion, and that’s led to a sense of iso­la­tion.”

The High­way 3 route will ex­pand a pub­lic trans­porta­tion op­tion to 40,000 ru­ral res­i­dents, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease, in­clud­ing col­lege stu­dents and se­niors who may need to travel for med­i­cal ap­point­ments.

In the mean­time, pre­miers in Western Canada and On­tario have asked Ottawa to work with Grey­hound to ex­tend its Oct. 31 exit date, while a larger strat­egy is de­vel­oped. Since trans­porta­tion is a fed­eral re­spon­si­bil­ity, she said, de­vel­op­ing routes be­tween Al­berta and Saskatchewan is dif­fi­cult.

De­tails of the re­gional ser­vice still need to be de­ter­mined, but could see three-trip daily ser­vice on week­days be­gin in Novem­ber, ac­cord­ing to trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials.

Shut­tle and coach ser­vice along High­way 3 has proved a tough go. Grey­hound cut the route years ago to cut costs, and a pri­vate op­er­a­tor closed its trips in 2017.

Medicine Hat Mayor Ted Clugston said his city, which wres­tled last year with a cost-cut­ting plan for tran­sit in­side the city, would not con­trib­ute fi­nan­cially to the pi­lot, but he sees value in ex­plor­ing more trans­porta­tion op­tions in the re­gion.

“The pri­vate sec­tor has had trou­ble mak­ing a go of it, so we’re not sure of how well it will work,” said Clugston.

Lo­cal city staff will pre­pare a re­quest for pro­pos­als from pri­vate sec­tor op­er­a­tors to run the route that would likely be based at the down­town tran­sit ter­mi­nal.

Stops are planned for Seven Per­sons, Bur­dett, Bow Is­land, Grassy Lake, Taber, Pur­ple Springs, Barn­well, Cranston and Coal­dale. It will also track back to Red­cliff, where talk of se­cur­ing reg­u­lar Medicine Hat Tran­sit routes has cir­cu­lated for years.

Red­cliff Mayor Dwight Kil­patrick, on hand for the an­nounce­ment, said the in­ter-city ser­vice isn’t the con­tin­ual mu­nic­i­pal ser­vice many of his cit­i­zens would pre­fer. But it marks progress on a lin­ger­ing is­sue.

“We’ve al­ways said that we need bus ser­vice in Red­cliff and this will be a good test,” said Kil­patrick.

Bow Is­land Mayor Gor­don Reynolds said vol­un­teers now run a ser­vice to help se­niors and those with med­i­cal ap­point­ments reach des­ti­na­tions in ma­jor cen­tres.

“The need in our com­mu­nity is mainly for se­niors,” said Reynolds. “We’ll be part of the net­work and that’s ter­rific. Fre­quency and cost will be the things that build rid­er­ship, and we’ll cer­tainly help pro­mote it.”

Cy­press County Reeve Richard Oster said it’s a new ser­vice for Seven Per­sons res­i­dents, but he was await­ing more de­tails.

Al Kem­mere, pres­i­dent of the Ru­ral Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of Al­berta, said trans­porta­tion ser­vice links ru­ral ar­eas to other much needed ser­vices.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.