Crowsnest council reduces bus hours

·2 min read

The wheels on the RideCrowsnest bus will have a few less hours to go round and round.

During its Dec. 1 regular meeting, Crowsnest Pass council voted in favour of reducing the daytime bus schedule by two hours. It will now run Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The number of riders was monitored from August through October. The vast majority of pickups and drop-offs occurred before 1 p.m., and an average of six to seven people rode the bus each day it operated.

The change in schedule is expected to save up to $7,000 in annual cost.

Expenditures for the program are currently $59,000. The high cost for a relatively low number of people, said Coun. Lisa Sygutek, is “disheartening.”

“When we cut that program down two years ago when I first got on council, the community was in an uproar and they thought we were the Antichrist,” she said.

“And now, we modify it, we’re giving them $60,000 a year for six people? I’d rather give them taxi vouchers. That’s absolutely ridiculous. What a waste of money.”

The bus’s cost inefficiencies were a major point of discussion when the Family and Community Support Services advisory committee decided to alter the schedule. In light of the pandemic, however, the committee felt it was important to continue offering the service to those needing an affordable way to access essential services.

“Until Covid is over, they would prefer to be running it on the new schedule, just to get by, and once Covid is over have this debate again,” said Coun. Dean Ward.

He also noted that various schedules and drop-off locations had been explored without much increase in rider use. “We even offered the bus for six months for free and the ridership didn’t go up,” he said.

“It could be worse,” continued Coun. Ward. “Pincher Creek got a grant for $400,000 from the previous government to reduce their carbon footprint, and it averaged one rider a week.”

On top of voting in favour of the new schedule, council also directed administration to prepare a summary of bus use and expenditures for the past five years for a past-present cost comparison. Administration will also compile alternative arrangements that could replace the bus program.

With the new provincial health measures announced last week, RideCrowsnest is restricted to trips for essential services only. These include trips for medical appointments, for groceries, and to the pharmacy, the bank and the post office.

Masks are mandatory for all users and seating will be limited to provide physical distancing.

RideCrowsnest fees and contact details are available online at Rides can be scheduled through the municipal office at 403-562-8833 or directly with the driver at 403-563-0040.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze