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Transit ridership is bouncing back in Red Deer

‘We are seeing that return to pre-COVID numbers’
Red Deer City Hall. (Advocate file photo.)

Transit ridership in Red Deer is slowly climbing back to pre-COVID levels, according to a report that will go to city council on Monday.

The last data shows 453,263 bus trips were made in July to September of 2023. This compares to just 156,199 rides in the third quarter of 2020 when many schools and businesses were closed due to the pandemic.

Ridership had fallen sharply in 2020 from a previous 488,341 bus rides over the third quarter of 2019. But it has since gradually grown with 198,471 rides taken in the third quarter of 2021, and 238,166 rides in Q3 of 2022.

City staff were heartened by the big increase this summer and early fall. “We are seeing that return to pre-COVID numbers, with ridership growing to 14 per cent below pre-COVID ridership, and a 90.3 per cent increase from this reporting period in 2022,” states the City of Red Deer’s Report Card for Q3. It examines how closely municipal operations are aligning with goals identified in the 2023-26 Strategic Plan.

The report also shows positive news in the recreation department. Last summer saw 1,468 Rip ‘n’ Rec passes sold from June 24 to Sept. 4 — the most ever sold for this program. The passes offered kids under age 18 admission to all city recreation facilities and transit services for $50.

A more poignant first was achieved during the Yellowknife wildfire evacuation when Red Deer’s Emergency Reception Centre supported more than 1,100 evacuees from the Northwest Territories for 33 days. This was the longest-activated reception centre in the city’s history.

Also in the third-quarter report was mention of 24 conditional lot sales in Timberlands, as well as the construction of an adult (age 55-plus) complex of rental units in Timberlands North, with an expected completion in the spring.

The social diversion team responded to 541 events from July through September— which was a 14 per cent decrease from the second quarter. The leading cause of a social diversion event was homelessness (31 per cent), followed by intoxication (20 per cent) and physical and basic health needs.

The July-September period was busy for Emergency Services, with 50,534 calls to 911 answered by the city’s Emergency Communications Centre. Of the 666 incidents local emergency service workers responded to, 554 were fires, 29 involved hazardous materials, 73 motor collisions and 10 rescue calls.