MEDICINE HAT, AB — A provincial pilot project could help people living in rural communities connect with near by medium sized cities.
The Alberta government is looking at a rural bus route system, but not everyone is on board with the idea.
“Is there even a demand for it?” asked Medicine Hat Mayor Ted Clugston. “Is there one person a day or is there one person a month?”
There are a lot of questions about a pilot program for rural transportation.
The province announced $1 million for the program in Thursday's budget.
Medicine Hat is one of the six municipalities on the list.
“We actually have been in the works with a proposal even though we only have until the end of March,” Clugston added.
Reeve for Cypress County, Richard Oster, believes the project could work.
“I think it’s something that we would like to look at,” he said. “And if it is something that will work, it’s just going to be good for our rate payers.”
Redcliff Mayor Dwight Kilpatrick isn’t so sure.
He said Southland Transportation had a plan in place a few years ago, offering trips from Redcliff to Medicine Hat a few times every day. But the ridership wasn’t there.
“I think there are some people in Redcliff that it would be an asset for,” he said, about the pilot program. “How many, that’s a different story.”
“In a perfect world, [the province] would have given us the money and maybe we would have said, maybe that’s not the best use of it,” said Clugston. “Maybe a low income transit pass would be a better idea for our citizens, or help us with the operating costs of our buses.”
But Clugston said the need to get from rural communities to Medicine Hat or Lethbridge, may be there.
“I’ve had family members that have struggled with trying to get to medical appointments,” he said. “Or, it might even be great if it’s used as a service to get to Medicine Hat to shop or come for entertainment.”
“Would it not be also open to young people that would travel into town from Irvine and Seven Persons and go to the show?” said Oster.
While the two agree about the idea, Kilpatrick said the timing could be everything.
“If it isn’t late in the evenings, then that doesn’t take the youth in for shows and that kind of thing,” he said. “If it’s not early enough in the morning, then it doesn’t get people to work.”
Clugston said staff are continuing to work on the city’s proposal, with the looming deadline a week away.
“It’s still a little bit up in the air, and then perhaps our proposal won’t even be accepted,” he said.
The province is expected to announce the accepted proposals in April.
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