Regional transit plan stalls

The City of Lacombe remains committed to establishing a bus link to Blackfalds and Red Deer despite hoped-for provincial funding drying up.

The City of Lacombe remains committed to establishing a bus link to Blackfalds and Red Deer despite hoped-for provincial funding drying up.

Mayor Steve Christie said council has asked administration to look at other options to get a regional transit system up and running.

“It’s a great initiative that is very, very well supported in the community,” said Christie on Tuesday.

“I, for one, definitely feel that we should keep moving forward and seek alternative processes.

“I know administratively there have been talks about Plan B and alternative ways of doing this and making it happen.”

A number of options will be looked at, including greater financial contributions from the three municipalities involved, pursuing other grant opportunities, or making use of existing buses that aren’t being used.

“We just have to sit down at the table with the Town of Blackfalds and the City of Red Deer and see what we can work out.”

A joint submission for the $1-million regional transit system was awaiting a second call for provincial funds from the Green Transit Incentives Program (GreenTRIP), which awards one-time capital funding to expand public transportation.

The municipalities want two-thirds of the funds, about $750,000, to help buy two 39-seat buses. Municipalities would cover the rest of the cost and split annual operating costs of $150,000 to $175,000.

The City of Red Deer Transit Department would hire drivers and maintain and house the buses.

A report to Lacombe city council from Guy Lapointe, community and economic development manager, notes the province’s 2013 budget includes no new GreenTRIP funding for the “foreseeable future.

“This being the case, the original modelling as proposed is no longer a practical alternative,” says Lapointe.

Christie said Alberta communities are familiar with the ebb and flow of provincial finances.

“I think that’s what happens in Alberta when times are tough you start getting a little more creative and I think that’s what is going to happen here.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com