Red Deer County is getting $700,000 from the province to expand a bus route to Penhold and Innisfail.
The county route is one of two pilot projects to expand rural bus service announced by the province on Wednesday. Another $700,000 will be invested in a Medicine Hat-to Lethbridge shuttle bus service connecting 12 communities.
“Regional transit funding will create even greater links between our communities, and will go a long way toward improved mobility for our residents,” says Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood in a statement accompanying the funding announcement.
“Being able to travel efficiently and safely is essential for our residents’ quality of life and the overall well-being of our connected communities.”
The new transit links will provide service to 11,000 people who do not have access to public transportation in the county.
Red Deer County announced it was partnering with Innisfail and Penhold to seek funding help for a bus link in the spring.
“Certainly, it’s really positive to see. It’s great to see,” said Dave Brand, county director of community and protective services.
“We’re looking forward to follow up with our partners on the operational details.”
The money will be provided over two years and will cover the operating costs of the transit expansion. The target is to have the new routes operating by the late fall.
Finding a way to improve transportation for residents has been on the county’s radar for some time.
Jo-Ann Symington, the county’s community services manager, said earlier this year that some residents in smaller centres need to get to medical appointments in Red Deer, or access other services not available in their own towns.
For people without vehicles “it can be very cost-prohibitive” to take a taxi in to the city, and commercial bus services often don’t run during business hours, said Symington.
The county wants to see a route that runs a few times a day. A bus route already links Gasoline Alley and Springbrook with Red Deer Transit and has proven popular.