Premier announces rural transit shuttle program for southern Alberta

By Ashley Wiebe & Charles Lefebvre
July 25, 2018 - 10:51am Updated: July 25, 2018 - 6:57pm

 

MEDICINE HAT, AB — A new pilot project in southern Alberta will connect people in communities to new transit options.

Premier Rachel Notley announced in Medicine Hat Wednesday morning a new rural shuttle program will be running between Highway 3 between Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. The program, part of the Rural Transportation Pilot Project, will provide public transportation to more than 27,700 people in the region, according to a news release.

The total investment from the province is $700,000.

The bus would make stops in Medicine Hat, Redcliff, Seven Persons, Bow Island, Burdett, Grassy Lake, Purple Springs, Taber, Barnwell, Cranford, Coaldale and Lethbridge. A map of the program is posted above.

Notley also announced $700,000 in funding for a project in Red Deer County to offer transit service between Red Deer, Springbrook, Penhold and Innisfail.

Similar projects have already been announced in Grande Prairie, Camrose and Spirit River but Notley said this is separate from the Greyhound announcement of ending passenger and freight service in western Canada by the end of October.

“It has nothing to do with Greyhound,” said Mayor Ted Clugston, following the announcement. “Greyhound was a coincidence. I knew about this proposal probably a year, maybe two years ago, that this was being talked about.”

“Greyhound’s decision only underscored the urgency to explore new options for rural transportation, we already knew that there was an issue there,” said Notley.

Notley hopes the federal government is able to extend the date Greyhound has set. She said it would give people and communities a chance to find their own solutions.

She added that this project could be the foundation for something bigger in the future.

“Obviously the government is putting funding towards this, which will help defray some of the costs, and then it becomes a question of developing the ridership and making sure that we’re providing the right frequency and the right size of transportation.”

“We have to be aware, these are pilots and so there will be leanings,” said president of Rural Municipalities Alberta. “There will be [some] successes [that] come out of them, but we also have to be prepared to learn from the failures.”

Clugston has seen similar routes in the past and isn’t so sure the pilot project will succeed.

“It’s a lot of money (...) I don’t know if the need is that great. We saw the private sector obviously couldn’t make a go of it,” he said.

“The rural transportation program came directly out of our engagement with community leaders and residence in the affected communities,” Notley said.

Costs per trip have yet to be determined, but staff say they’re comparing local fares to determine what is affordable.

The NDP say the goal is to have two or three buses running the route each day, beginning in November.

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