City says bus service to Regina airport is possible, but would cost taxpayers

The wheels are in motion to potentially bring city buses to the Regina International Airport.

But if it happens, it will come with a cost to local taxpayers.

Earlier this year Regina City Council requested its administration create a report looking at what was needed to make a bus route to the airport a reality. That report was tabled at Thursday's Community and Protective Services Committee meeting.

The City of Regina aims to have transit services available within 400 metres to 90 per cent of all residents and places of work, as per the city's master transit plan. Currently, the closest bus stop to the airport is one kilometre away on Pasqua Street and Regina Avenue

After consultation with both the Regina Airport Authority and looking at other municipalities strategies for public airport transportation, the City of Regina has settled on two options for the route.

New route, or expansion of existing route?

Option one would be the creation of a brand new route to service the airport. The proposed route would run between the airport and downtown Regina via 13th Avenue and Sandra Schmirler Way.

Bryan Eneas/CBC News

Among the advantages of the proposed new route is that it would offer direct service between the airport and downtown, according to the administration report. It would also service businesses along Sandra Schmirler Way, offer direct access to main transfer points downtown while offering direct drop-offs at hotels downtown.

"In our research, other Canadian municipalities indicated that the best ridership for an airport route would be a location with hotels and amenities for travelers, as well as a major transfer point location to make the service as convenient as possible for residents," the report read.

The first option would also increase the frequency of transit along 13th Avenue, while offering a new transit option to the residential area west of Lewvan Drive.

But option one is the pricier of the two options according to the report, with a net annual operating cost of $144,000 for the first three years of operation.

Option two would be an expansion of the existing Normandy Heights/Eastview bus route.

Submitted by City of Regina

The second option is cheaper with a net annual operating cost of $109,000 for the first three years it runs but it would have more drawbacks than introducing a new route.

While it would be the most economical of the two options and offers downtown access, it would constitute "poor transit planning" according to the report tabled on Thursday.

"Customers who are travelling to other key destinations on the route, such as Golden Mile Shopping Centre, Sheldon Williams Collegiate or downtown, would have an additional 10 minutes added to their trip by going to the airport," the report read.

Option two would also fail to service businesses to the north of the airport and future developments planned there. It would also have low ridership and pre-existing ridership would be reduced due to the increased transit time according to the report.

Regina City Council has yet to consider either option.

All of the financials for either the proposed new route, or expanded route would have to be considered in the 2020 budget process according to the report.

Airport Authority offers up $100K for first three years

Part of the reason costs would potentially be lower for the first three years in either option is because the Regina Airport Authority offered up $100,000 per year for those years to start the routes.

"In addition, [the Regina Airport Authority] has indicated they would pay for up to four bus stop waiting areas (concrete waiting pad) along Sandra Schmirler Way to make sure that it is a safe space for the bus," the report read.

"They have also committed to developing bus stops on the airport lands, including at the airport terminal."

After the trial period ends, option one would cost $244,000 to operate, while option two would cost $209,000 to operate, should the airport authority no longer offer up the $100,000.

According to the report, when the city starts up a new bus route, it is typically done in a limited fashion.

Due to the irregular shifts and flights and the fact that there are several businesses around the airport, the proposed new or expanded bus service would be in operation between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and between 4 p.m. and 1 a.m. Monday to Friday.

It would operate with a 30 minute frequency and a 45 minute frequency, respectively.

Currently, people get back and forth to the airport by private vehicle or taxi.