A regional bus service carrying passengers from Red Deer, Blackfalds and Lacombe will be on the road late this summer.
The highly anticipated first trip is scheduled to depart Sorenson Station in Red Deer for Lacombe on Aug. 25.
Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie said it will a great day for the three municipalities when the buses start rolling because offering the transit service has been in the works for many years.
Two City of Red Deer spare buses will be used for the service until the two new buses arrive at the end of the year.
Details are still be sorted out about the route and scheduling of the Monday to Saturday service, but an express route and non-express route will be offered.
A monthly adult regional transit pass will ring in at $90 for Lacombe and $70 for Blackfalds. Cash fare for the regional service will cost riders $5.
“This is great news for Lacombe,” said Christie. “Since ordering the buses, there was a little bit of concern we would not start up until later in the fall or possibility in the new year. To hear this news is certainly a great thing. We certainly did not want to miss the start of the school year.”
The need for the bus service was heightened when three Greyhound routes pulled out of Central Alberta in October 2011. Christie said this service will be a big plus for students attending Canadian University College in Lacombe and residents working in Red Deer.
Red Deer transit manager George Penny said this is very positive step in linking the communities.
“We have the regional service with Red Deer County that works very well so this is just an extension,” he said. “It’s very positive for Lacombe and Blackfalds residents to come into Red Deer.”
The three municipalities footed the bill for the two buses to the tune of $900,000.
Red Deer used $600,000 of its one-time Green Transit Incentives Program (GreenTrip) funding while Lacombe and Blackfalds each handed over $150,000 for the two buses.
Once the buses are running, Blackfalds and Lacombe will be on the hook in a 50-50 operating cost share, estimated at about $150,000 a year.
Red Deer Transit will hire the drivers, and maintain and house the buses.
“We would love to see every bus full every day but we’ll just see how it kicks off,” said Christie. “We were told by the residents in Lacombe, Blackfalds and area that there is a need. We know that people are excited.”
Penny said the city will once again answer the recent call for GreenTrip funding applications from the provincial government. Red Deer received $12.1 million in 2011 to buy low-floor transit buses.