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February 15th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 7
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FCSS to roll out revamped bus service
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
ANNA KROUPINA
Pass Herald Reporter
The Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) program is scrapping the current public bus transit service and giving the Town Rounder a makeover that will accommodate all Crowsnest Pass residents.

The new bus service, called RIDE Crowsnest, will hit the road at the end of February.

The FCSS found the current public transit service, which is a pilot project that began in January 2016, to be unsuccessful with very low ridership. Under the old system, a specific bus route through Crowsnest Pass was set up with stops and scheduled times.

“We gave it a year, and before the year was up, we started reviewing the statistics and seeing that it’s not being utilized and it’s not a good utilization of dollars to continue on with the transit service,” says FCSS programmer Kim Lewis.

She suspects that the previous formula did not work because the community is too spread out. With 24 stops along the bus route, it took 1 hour and 20 minutes to get around.

That’s when the FCSS started to look at how the bus system in the Pass can be changed and improved. They decided to revamp the Town Rounder, currently the door-to-door bus service for seniors and people with disabilities. The service is being expanded to be inclusive for all residents of Crowsnest Pass and tourists, regardless of age, mobility or income.
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Under the new system, Crowsnest Pass is broken down into neighbourhoods and the bus service will be available to the residents of a particular neighbourhood on specific days, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Four pickup times per day are available to choose from. On Tuesdays, the neighbourhoods of Blairmore and Frank will be serviced, while bus service for Hillcrest and Bellevue will be available on Wednesdays. Coleman residents will have their turn to use the bus on Thursdays.

Currently, the Town Rounder operates on Mondays and Tuesdays for seniors and persons with disabilities only.

“We understand that this will be difficult for some people,” says Lewis. “They might feel like this is limiting them a little bit, but we feel like it’s also opening it up to people who never had this service. So the positive side is that there are people right now who don’t get access to this bus at all, and now they are going to get access to it, at least one day per week.”

In addition to each neighbourhood’s personalized day where bus service is available to them, the FCSS is introducing two additional days: Rec and Leisure Mondays, where anybody from any neighbourhood can phone and ride the bus to any recreational and leisure activities that are taking place in the community, and Flex Fridays, an evening service where residents of all neighbourhoods can utilize the bus service from 2 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
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Residents must call the day prior to pre-book a pick up time.

“It’s not going to be a taxi service,” cautions Lewis. “If people need an exact pickup at an exact time, they’ll need to call the taxi service. It’s one of those things that we try to accommodate, but people also need to be patient.”

The cost per ride for adults 18 and over is remaining the same as for the Town Rounder: $4 per initial pickup and return. For youth, the cost is $2. A new option is being introduced where any additional stops are $1. Punch passes that offer a free ride will also be available for purchase. Children up to 5 years old ride free.

As far as Lewis is aware, this is a system that has never been tried before in the Pass. She hopes that the bus service will encourage residents to be more involved and active in the community.

Lewis says that the most challenging part of getting the service to be successful is overcoming the stigma of riding a bus.

“That’ll be our uphill battle, teaching people that it’s for everybody. We want it to be appealing to all ages, and we want it to be a bus that is identifiable and stands out from the other white buses,” says Lewis.
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To make RIDE Crowsnest stand out, the bus will be painted and decorated to make it distinguishable, attractive and fun.

While Lewis is hopeful that the new service will take off, she says the FCSS will continue to monitor ridership following the launch of RIDE Crowsnest.

“We have a positive outlook on this. We’re really standing behind and pushing this and hoping that it will work for our community,” she says.

RIDE Crowsnest is a brand new 20-passenger bus equipped with a bike rack, a back storage area for skis and two spaces to accommodate wheelchairs. Ruth Dukhart, who has been the Town Rounder driver for five years, will continue working as the bus driver for the new service.

The bus schedule will be distributed in public spaces around town and published in the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass Community Guide to be released on March 22.

According to Lewis, the net cost to operate the bus service for 2017 is $94,000.

The FCSS looks out for the social interests of the community and provides funding to various community groups. According to Lewis, the program is giving out $107,000 to community groups in 2017.
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February 15th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 7
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