A new on-demand bus service is running between Blackfalds and the north end of Red Deer.
“The service is similar to dial-a-bus, where you call a number and get a ride, but the unique part about it is the fact that you can download the Pick-Up On-Demand App,” said Preston Weran, director of infrastructure and property services for the Town of Blackfalds.
“It gets you that Uber-type service through the local transit.”
This means commuters will need to book their rides in advance by calling or using the Pick-Up On-Demand App. People can book the bus for immediate service or for a ride up to two weeks in advance.
“We’ve got slots allocated for the morning, and then the later afternoon during the busy times. And then, further than that, there’s a couple of hours throughout the day that it’ll go in and out of Blackfalds – if the demand is there,” said Weran.
Tickets for the service can be bought directly through the app or in-person at the town office or the Abbey Centre. The town is offering free service during September. After that, tickets will be $2.50 one way.
The system replaces the BOLT Regional Transit service, which was cancelled by the City of Lacombe.
BOLT Regional Transit launched in August 2014 as a way of connecting Red Deer, Blackfalds and Lacombe.
Lacombe council felt residents weren’t getting a return on the $200,000-per-year investment.
“The decision to cancel the Bolt Regional Transit service was a difficult one, but one we felt was necessary as the substantial investment required by the service did not result in sustainable ridership levels,” said Mayor Grant Creasy in a press release.
“In these times of fiscal restraint, council needs to take a lead role in financial stewardship.”
The net annual operating cost of the service for the Town of Blackfalds will be $211,937.
Lacombe resident Todd Wyatt doesn’t support the cancellation of the former service.
“When you dangle the carrot and you offer it to members of the community, and then you say, ‘well, it’s not working out’ after a very short period of time, and then you take it back, now you’ve got people that have jobs and that have connections and that rely on that transportation. Now, they’re left hanging,” Wyatt said.
Weran is hopeful the pilot project will be expanded to full service in three years and is excited about the on-demand aspect of the system.
“The two biggest things we’re looking for in a transit service is efficiency and frequency. This on-demand service allows us to only need to use our drivers when people want a ride, so we can focus our transit on those hours,” Wehran said.
“It allows a quicker trip to Red Deer, because the City of Lacombe service is no longer a part of the route, and then we’re not having to go all the way downtown. That also adds efficiencies for our riders.”