Rural transportation pilot project to roll out this fall
Funding for a Camrose-Wetaskiwin shuttle service and regional ride-sharing pilot program was announced at the University of Alberta-Augustana Campus June 28. Left to right: director at Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities, University of Alberta-Augustana Campus Dr. Lars Hollstrom; John Stepovy, Red Arrow; Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Bruce Hinkley; Alberta minister of transportation Brian Mason; City of Camrose mayor Norm Mayer. Leah Simonot/Camrose Canadian
Connectivity within the Camrose region is expected to improve this fall with two new rural transportation pilot projects.
Over two years, the City of Camrose will receive more than $450,000 to establish a regular bus shuttle service between Camrose and Edmonton and more than $137,000 to implement a ride-sharing service between neighbouring rural communities as part of the provincial government’s Rural Transportation Pilot Program.
Alberta minister of transportation Brian Mason announced the funding was approved at a press conference at the University of Alberta-Augustana Campus on June 28. Mason also announced $840,000 in funding for two transit projects in the Grande Prairie region.
The Rural Transportation Pilot Program is designed to support new and expanded public transportation services to fill gaps between communities where there is no existing provider, thus building a more comprehensive system where rural areas and small centres can connect to regional centres.
The Camrose-Edmonton shuttle service will be provided by Red Arrow and will run three roundtrips per day, Monday through Friday, with a focus on transit hub and medical locations. For students on tight budgets, this means saving money on gas and parking fees when making trips to labs and libraries in the major centre. Riders of all ages will gain access to health services, jobs and shopping, as well as connectivity to family and friends.
The ride-share program will allow residents in neighbouring communities to make trips into Camrose at a reduced cost.
“It’s good for the environment, it’s good for congestion, but most of all it’s about people,” said Mason. “It’s about connecting people and making sure that they can get where they need to go. And that includes seniors, that includes students, that includes all sorts of people,” said Mason at the Camrose press conference.
Director of the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities at the University of Alberta-Augustana Campus Lars Hallstrom said rural transportation is not just about moving to Edmonton, but about bringing them to Camrose as well.
As Canadians, travelling large distances between major centres is no oddity. The problem often comes down to crossing 100 or so kilometres.
“When you’re looking out the door and trying to figure out how you are going to get to the store locally, how you are going to get into Camrose to see your family or to get out of Camrose to see your family, how you can get to Edmonton, how you might even get to a place where you can think about getting on an airplane to fly out of Edmonton, these are very real, day-to-day challenges,” said Hallstrom.
“The model that I think is put forward in this pilot hits the nail on the head because it deals with the reality that Camrose is relatively close to Edmonton, we have a large metropolitan centre with a huge amount of services, but also a lot of people who should be … coming to Camrose as well.”
The project supports municipalities who are already doing good work in this area by allowing them to expand the services that they are already providing.
The City currently provides $100,000 to subsidize a taxi token program and another $100,000 for the Camrose Community Bus, whose ridership averages about 200 riders a week. Another $60,000 in funding supports the handivan.
City of Camrose Mayor Norm Mayer said there is not, as of now, a fixed ridership that will deem the pilot projects a success, though he expects ridership will be starting out low as people work the service into their activities.
“It would depend on the take-up from the residents in surrounding communities as well as Camrose as to what the actual need is and what the actual areas of service would be,” said Mayer. “That’s why, as a pilot project, there will be flexibility. We will address the areas that require additional services proven by their support.”
These come as the first of a number of announcements Mason hopes will be made by the end of September, as projects in other communities are under consideration.
“The program has given municipalities the opportunity to identify their own solutions to best meet their own needs. Because it encourages regional collaboration among the municipalities, a number of communities are working together to make the best use of resources,” said Mason. “Even more Albertans will have the option to choose transit over driving. It has many advantages.”