January 24th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 24
RIDECrowsnest public bus service reduced to two days a week
FCSS recommends providing bus service on Tuesdays and Thursdays
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Municipality of Crowsnest Pass Photo
The municipality had adorned the RIDECrowsnest bus in decals to set it apart from other white busses that operate in the community, and to make it appear more attractive to riders.
Pass Herald Reporter
Members of the community have been speaking out against the municipality’s decision to reduce the RIDECrowsnest public bus service, but Council says that ridership numbers simply did not make it worthwhile to maintain the level of service.

During budget deliberations in December, Council voted to reduce the RIDECrowsnest bus service from five to two days a week, leaving it to the discretion of Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) to determine which days them deem most optimal.

“The reason we reduced the service is because we were caught in the crunch of trying to make the numbers work as far as budget. It was a very difficult decision, but we had to find dollars somewhere to keep our tax increase to less than 2.5 percent,” says Councillor and Deputy Mayor Dean Ward, who also sat on the FCSS board for several years. “It really breaks my heart to have to do this because I think it’s a good service, but I wish the service was more fully used.”

Per month, an average of 115 adults and 30 youths used the bus between March and November 2017. That’s an average of approximately eight riders per day.
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In 2017, the cost to operate the service was budgeted at $106,795. In 2016 and 2015, it cost the municipality $106,042 and $111,216 respectively to operate the predecessors to RIDECrowsnest, the Town Rounder and municipal bus service.

The operating costs outweigh the revenue generated. In 2015 and 2016, the bus service generated approximately $20,000, while RIDECrowsnest was projected to bring in only $6,750 for 2017. Granted, it must be noted that the bus service was free between March and August as a Canada 150 project.

“The FCSS board and Council worked very hard to expand the service and get more people using it, but the issue is that people have figured out how to get around this community in other ways. We have over 2,000 seniors and yet are averaging six to eight people [using the bus],” says Councillor Ward.

Over the last three years, the municipality has attempted different models of a public bus service, but all have attracted low ridership numbers.

RIDECrowsnest is the municipality’s most recent formula, a door-to-door public bus service that has been operating since March 2017. Under this system, Crowsnest Pass is broken down into neighbourhoods and the bus service was available to the residents of a particular neighbourhood on specific days.
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RIDECrowsnest replaced the public transit service and the Town Rounder bus service. The public transit service was a pilot project that began in January 2016, where a specific bus route through Crowsnest Pass was set up with stops and scheduled times. The Town Rounder was the door-to-door bus service for seniors and people with disabilities that operated two days a week.

At a meeting on January 16, Council accepted as information two letters of support for the bus service from community members.

“Although I am new to the area, having a bus available is very convenient – especially at this time of year,” wrote one person, who also noted that they found it difficult to coordinate the bus schedule with other community activities.

“Having events spread through “The Pass” only works effectively for those with transportation. I think ridership could increase if this issue were addressed,” they wrote.

Another resident, who also spoke during the public input period, criticized the RIDECrowsnest bus formula, which designates a specific day of the week for a specific community and instead recommended that the service be opened up to all members of the community on all days.

At the FCSS’s last board meeting on January 17, the board came to a decision to operate the bus on Tuesdays and Thursdays and to service the entire community. These two days received the highest number of ridership out of the week, and Tuesday also coincides with 10 per cent off at the Blairmore IGA.

The recommendation still needs to be approved by Council.

“Our biggest hope is that we can maximize those two days, get as many people on there as possible, come back in the fall and that the service becomes so busy that we need to expand it and go back to three, four or possibly five days a week,” says Councillor Ward.
January 24th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 24
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