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Towns’ bus service stalls

Bus service between Lacombe and Blackfalds is stalled.

The communities can’t launch a planned service to Red Deer until the province calls for new public transit application grants.

“We’ve been taking the time to get everything in line, but this is all very much contingent on the province,” said Guy Lapointe, City of Lacombe’s community economic development manager.

A joint submission for the $1-million regional transit system awaits a second call for provincial funds from the Green Transit Incentives Program (GreenTRIP) which awards one-time capital funding to expand public transportation. The municipalities want two- thirds of the funds, about $750,000, to help buy two 39-seat buses and run them between Lacombe, Blackfalds and Red Deer.

The two municipalities would pay remaining capital costs of $175,000 each and once running, each municipality would split costs, estimated at $150,000 to $175,000 annually. The City of Red Deer Transit Department would hire drivers and maintain and house the buses.

Since the provincial $2-billion GreenTRIP program was announced in 2010, a dozen grants have been made including $12 million for 40 new Red Deer Transit low-floor buses.

“They’ve always said there’ll be a second intake and we haven’t heard it yet,” said Lapointe.

Alberta Transportation spokesman John Lear said there’s no word on when new applications will be accepted.

“It’s up to the minister to determine when the second call will come.”

Both Lear and Lapointe said few first-round applications were received for GreenTRIP’s $400 million allocated to rural communities outside Edmonton and Calgary, which each received $800 million.

Even if provincial funding comes soon, it will still be 2014 before the service starts.

“The procurement process would take about a year,” said Lapointe, referring to buying the two $450,000 buses and building the seven to eight stops in each community.

That timeline didn’t stop Blackfalds from budgeting $166,000 in operating funds and $31,000 in capital funds this year.

“We wanted to be prepared for it,” said Blackfalds mayor Melodie Stol.

“We just hope the province will come through and support us.”

Stol said while it’s important for commuters to get to Red Deer Transit’s downtown Sorensen Station, it’s equally so for workers getting to Blackfalds.

“A lot of people would use it and we’ve been working with Cord Worley Parsons, our largest employer, to design routes to best accommodate their employees.”

Lacombe mayor Steve Christie has said he hopes workers from Agriculture Financial Services Corporation, Lacombe’s largest employer, who live in Red Deer would use the service.

Lapointe said schedules would benefit Lacombe residents wanting to get around town, not just to and from Red Deer.

“Canadian University College students could access town better.”

rfiedler@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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