Red Deer’s Prairie Bus Lines will begin providing on-demand transit service to Innisfail residents starting in April.
Innisfail town council unanimously voted recently in favour of signing a one-year contract with Prairie Bus Lines to provide bus service.
Prairie is taking over from the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion Branch, which informed the town late last year that it wanted to get out of the transit business.
Residents can book a bus through an app, a website or by phoning a dispatch centre. The service is also available in Blackfalds and nearly a dozen other Alberta communities.
The town’s budget includes $96,000 for transit this year and $120,000 a year beginning in 2024. The town expects to generate about $15,000 from the service to start, a number that could go up if ridership increases. The budget covers nearly 50 hours of weekday service but bringing back some weekend service, which was recently discontinued because of low ridership.
Innisfail will have two buses available. One will be used for local trips and the second can be reserved for out-of-town trips. Rates will remain the same as before. Local trips cost $5 one way. Trips to Bowden and Penhold cost $25 each way and trips to Red Deer, Olds and Sylvan Lake cot $50. The bus can be booked to Calgary for $250.
Innisfail community services director Meghan Jenkins said the town will lease the PACE minibuses to Prairie Bus Lines for a small amount. Prairie will provide drivers, training, a dispatch and call centre, booking services and other basic operational needs. Fuel, repairs and maintenance are not included.
While the service had previously focused on seniors and those with mobility issues, the town plans to pitch it as an option for any residents needing transportation.
The town hopes to use the data collected by Prairie throughout its operating year to get a better handle on how to improve transit service in the community.
The contract will be reevaluated as part of 2024 budget discussions.
Innisfail Mayor Jean Barclay thanked the Legion for all it had done in running the service for the last few years.
“I’m looking forward to this service becoming even better than it has been,” said Barclay during the council meeting late last month.