The City of Lacombe has voted to cancel their participation in the BOLT transit system, which ferries residents to and from Lacombe, Blackfalds and Red Deer.
The 5-2 decision, with Coun. Thalia Hibbs and Cora Hoekstra voting against, was a motion by Coun. Don Gullekson and means the city’s participation will end in one year due to the terms of the initial contract.
Coun. Jonathan Jacobson, who sat on the BOLT transit committee along with Gullekson, initially voted to stay in BOLT earlier in 2019 but after participating in the committee and seeing the numbers, chose to vote to cancel this time.
Jacobson said it was a tough decision, especially considering the many heartfelt letters council received from users of the service, but the research he personally sought out pointed it to being not “ethical” for Lacombe taxpayers to continue to support the service.
Jacobson pointed to the City of Red Deer transit system, which has seven per cent of the city’s population using it every day. In comparison, the maximum amount of Lacombe residents possibly using the system in 2019 in 0.43 per cent, meaning a 1,700 per cent increase would be required to reach Red Deer’s usage rate.
“Ultimately I decided that whatever my vote two years from now was going to be the same as it is now. By delaying, I could cost taxpayers $400,000,” Jacobson said.
Ultimately, Jacobson said Lacombe residents would be better served by an omnibus transportation study by professional, which would spell out the needs of Lacombe residents — rather then spending $200,000 per year on an intramuncipal system with low ridership.
Jacobson offered an apology to the people who currently rely on a system, which he feels was implemented without the necessary foresight.
“I absolutely heard what they said, considered it and this was not a decision made with a callous regard for their personal circumstances,” he said.
Coun. Hibbs, who voted against cancelling BOLT, said she wanted to champion the people she spoke to in the community who use the service.
“I spoke with passion because I am passionate about this community. I want it to be successful and I want it to be great for all people that live here. We have a lot of people that need a service like that,” she said.
Hibbs felt council did not allow the committee to finish the process of finding solutions to the system and that it would have had potential if the committee was given clear direction.
“These were the partnerships I was really excited about. We had the opportunity to do work with different organizations, institutions and municipalities. There is a lot of possibilities here,” she said.
Hibbs felt it will be a long time before Lacombe has the opportunity to learn from a system like this.
“We cut the process short and we will probably never know because the next time something like this will have the opportunity to happen will not be anytime soon,” she said.
Hibbs said she would be willing to look at a local bus system in Lacombe, but isn’t sure it would be implemented.
“I see the value in that, but it would come down to dollars. I have to wonder that if this was too much money, why would that not be,” she said.