Buses may soon be on the road carrying passengers between Lacombe, Blackfalds and Red Deer.
The wheels are in motion to bring an estimated $1.05-million regional transit system that would connect the two municipalities and Red Deer.
The joint initiative between Lacombe and Blackfalds is hinging on obtaining two thirds of the funding from the Green Transit Incentives Program (GreenTrip), a provincial grant program that awards one-time capital funding to expand public transportation.
The grant would cover the capital costs including the purchase of two 39-seat buses ($900,000) and infrastructure ($150,000) such as bus stops and shelters.
The two municipalities would pay $175,000 each, the remaining capital cost. Once the buses are running, each municipally would be on the hook for a 50-50 cost share, estimated at $150,000 to $175,000 annually. The City of Red Deer Transit Department would hire the drivers, maintain and house the buses at an estimated $100 an hour.
Since three Greyhound bus routes in Central Alberta were chopped in October 2011, there has been no bus service to Lacombe, which is home to Canadian University College and Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (ASFC), the largest employer in Lacombe.
“Approximately 40 people that work there still live in Red Deer,” said Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie. “It’s a little bit of a green initiative if they could ride the bus.”
Seniors and those with special needs in the municipalities would also be able to take advantage of the public transportation.
Christie said with the three municipalities, AFSC and CCU on board with the project they should have a good shot of receiving the grant.
There would be eight stops in Lacombe, nine stops in Blackfalds and at Sorensen Station in Red Deer.
“It’s always been an important component of our social needs assessment,” said Corrine Newman, Blackfalds chief executive officer. “It’s important for seniors. It’s important for youth, for adults. It is seen to be a valuable service.”
A few years ago, Blackfalds attempted to create a regional transit system alone but decided to park the project because of the costs involved in providing quality service. Newman said the new service would take cars off the road and free up parking spaces in the three municipalities.
The second round of grant application deadline have not been announced yet but is expected in the next few days.
In the meantime, both municipalities are seeking public input on the project. An online survey is on the town and the city websites (www.blackfalds.com and www.lacombe.ca).