County connection ready to roll

Transit service will roll into Gasoline Alley and Springbrook Monday, providing a much-anticipated link with the fast-growing Red Deer County communities.

Transit to the county — Luc Ouellette

Transit to the county — Luc Ouellette

Transit service will roll into Gasoline Alley and Springbrook Monday, providing a much-anticipated link with the fast-growing Red Deer County communities.

The daily service will connect to the city’s transit routes at the Bower Place Shopping Centre and include stops in the 45-minute loop, which includes nearly 40 potential stops, including 11 in Springbrook.

The county has been looking at a transit connection since a 2007 transportation study confirmed the value of providing a way for workers to reach Gasoline Alley businesses and for Springbrook residents to commute to the city.

“It’s a big move forward,” said Red Deer County Mayor Earl Kinsella at an official unveiling of the new buses outside Red Deer County Centre Tuesday. “We’ll see how it works.”

Kinsella anticipates the route will be welcomed. “If there wasn’t a demand for it we wouldn’t do it.”

The county spent $425,000 on a transit bus and $78,000 on an Action Bus for the new route. The cost of adding bus stops pushed the total cost to $900,000, which was covered by provincial grants.

Operating the service is expected to cost the county about $600,000 annually, but some of that will be offset by fares. Also, $444,000 in provincial funding has been tapped to pay for running the buses for the first year. Whether the province will continue to provide that funding remains unclear.

Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling said the service will provide both environmental and social benefits for both municipalities.

The transit connection will make it easier for people to get to work and will mean fewer cars will be needed on the road, reducing emissions.

“We have broken new ground here,” he said. “It all contributes to sustainability, and that’s what we’re all about.”

Flewwelling said the joint initiative also shows how much county and city relations have improved over the last few years. “Five years ago something like this was not possible between the two municipalities.

“We’ve come a long way.”

Alberta Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette said providing a transit link between rural and urban municipalities was an “innovative idea” that has only been adopted in a couple of other parts of the province. Strathcona County runs buses to Edmonton and in Cochrane a private bus firm has established a route into Calgary.

Riders will pay the same rates as the city service, which will cost $2.20 for adults and $1.90 for youths, seniors and students as of Sept.1. The first buses leave Bower Place at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and the last one leaves as late as 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Hours Monday through Wednesday and Sunday are shorter.

Buses will run six times a day to Springbrook, following a temporary route until sewer and water construction projects are completed.

For detailed route and fare information go to www.reddeer.ca or www.reddeercounty.ab.ca

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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