With Greyhound winding down its Alberta operations and the provincial government investing more in rural busing, Red Arrow is exploring new tie-ins with Central Alberta communities.
John Stepovy, Red Arrow’s director of business development, said “all options are on the table” since Greyhound announced it was pulling out of Western Canada in October, and the Alberta government announced two pilot projects to start this fall.
A provincial grant of $700,000 was given to expand an existing bus route that now runs between Red Deer, Gasoline Alley and Springbrook — out to Penhold and Innisfail.
And the same amount was given to link Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, as well as 12 communities in between.
If these pilots prove successful, “this could be an opportunity for us to connect, regionally,” if Red Arrow connected with these new routes, said Stepovy.
His bus company will be also watching to see which Central Alberta towns are starting their own local bus services to see if it makes sense to tie in with them and expand links between centres.
“We’ve received a lot of emails saying ‘we’d love it if Red Arrow came to our community,’” said Stepovy, but sustainability is always a factor.
Red Arrow, which also operates the Ebus, currently links Red Deer to Calgary and Edmonton, their respective airports, and the Cross Iron Mills Mall.
A previous attempt to run a bus service between Red Deer and Sylvan Lake and Rocky did not prove profitable: “There was not much usage,” said Stepovy.
But he noted the landscape has shifted considerably in recent months, so it might be time to take another look at this service or establishing others that connect smaller Central Alberta centres.
“Nothing is set in stone… all routes are being looked at.”
What isn’t being considered is Red Arrow taking over the soon-to-be vacated Greyhound depot in Red Deer.
Stepovy said the company is satisfied with picking up and dropping off passengers in the parking lot of the Radisson Hotel on 67th Street, as it has done for the past two decades.
There are enough spots for customers to park their cars there until the bus trip is over, he added.