(Advocate staff).

(Advocate staff).

Talks planned about how to boost bus ridership in Red Deer

Red Deer Transit’s ridership has not bounced back after the pandemic, leaving some city councillors asking what more can be done to encourage bus use.

Transit manager George Penny told council during Tuesday’s budget session that transit ridership is only about 55 per cent of what it was pre-pandemic.

Many Red Deerians have apparently found alternative ways to get around the city.

Some may object to various “impediments” to local bus service, so the transit department plans to talk to Red Deer Polytechnic and other institutions, as well as seniors organizations to find out how the service could be improved.

Penny said he would like to know why aren’t more students and seniors riding the bus and what would it take to encourage more bus use.

“If you can get more people moving by bus, you can get more cars off the road and reduce parking requirements…”

The transit department is always looking at different ways to offer transit services, said Penny, who noted five 30-foot buses were already purchased for some slower runs, rather than 40-foot buses.

Some councillors asked whether more “dial-a-bus” service can be considered.

He responded some digital-on-demand services are now offered — including getting residents to their homes during slow evening hours in certain neighbourhoods.

The potential for expanding such services will be explored, he added.

Future considerations are a cashless system, where riders can tap debit cards or phones on a reader, added Penny, who noted council could choose to increase bus fees in 2023 and 2024.

Minimal funding increases are proposed for the transit department in the proposed multi-year budget.

Red Deer City Council

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