Transit system improving with the times

A critical mass that will allow Red Deer Transit to run more buses more often is coming, but has not arrived yet, says its manager.

A critical mass that will allow Red Deer Transit to run more buses more often is coming, but has not arrived yet, says its manager.

Like those who work with him, George Penny waxes proud about the city’s transit system, which has grown in immense leaps from the four basic routes that ran six days a week in the late 1970s.

Now serving a city of roughly 100,000 people with arms reaching into Springbrook, Gasoline Alley, Blackfalds and Lacombe, Red Deer Transit runs 64 buses on more than a dozen routes, including special services to Olymel and a regional system funded by neighbouring municipalities.

The system continues to expand and upgrade, and it’s set to upgrade again, says Penny.

Recent changes have included the introduction of electronic fare boxes and, on some buses, on-board libraries. There are only four of those right now, but more are coming, says Penny.

Also coming in the next couple of years is a real-time bus tracking system, now in the early stages of development.

Steven Parkin, transit operations superintendent, said on Friday that the system is still in its infancy and he doesn’t know yet what it will look like. He does know that it will be Internet-based and that it will offer two distinct advantages: One to riders and one to the system itself.

Once the system is operational, riders will be able to open a web site from their smart phones or computers and see exactly where their bus is and when it will arrive at their stop. The system will include information about bus delays, such as traffic collisions or breakdowns, meaning riders can stay indoors, warm and dry, on those days when the weather turns nasty.

For the transit system, real-time tracking offers a more complete picture of the number of people using the buses, where they get on and where they get off.

That will allow the city to fine tune its service, beefing it up where necessary and making other adjustments as well, says Parkin.

Fares in Red Deer compare favourably with those in Alberta’s two largest cities.

In Edmonton, monthly passes run at $91.50 for adults, $83.50 for seniors and $69 for students.

Calgary passes run at $99 for adults and $65 for students.

Red Deer fares are $70 for adults (increasing by $3 in June) and $59 for youths and students.

The BOLT regional fare to Lacombe is currently set at $90 for adults and $25 for seniors and students.

Details on fares, including single-ride tickets, day passes and other packages, are available online at www.reddeer.ca/city-services/transit or by calling 403-342-8225.

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