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Community bus system navigates decades of changes

FCSS Photo. Photo of the Town Rounder, the precursor to RIDECrowsnest, in the Crowsnest Pass Community Guide from 2015 under Family and Community Support Services.

Nicholas Allen

Oct 11, 2023

Subsidized taxi program replacing bus service for seniors and disabled.

RIDECrowsnest was a community bus system in the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, cancelled due to lack of users. The Municipality now has a subsidized taxi program replacing the bus service.

A trial service was launched in January 2016 called the Town Rounder with a dedicated scheduled route. However, the sparse population density meant that travel times were long, and the service was unpopular. 

It was decided to revise the system to a door-to-door service open to seniors and persons with disabilities. 

At the end of February 2017, the system was revised again and made available to all demographics. The system adopted the name RIDECrowsnest after this.

The bus service, designed to meet the transportation needs of seniors and individuals with disabilities, has been part of the community since a community survey was conducted in the mid-1970s. Over the years, it has undergone numerous changes, all aimed at serving the ever-changing requirements of the community.

Kim Lewis, the family & community support services programmer for the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, has been involved with the service for a decade and shed light on its history and transformation. 

Operating the bus service was not without its challenges Lewis mentioned. 

“The biggest hurdle I feel we faced operating (RIDECrowsnest) during my 10 years was trying to increase ridership,” said Lewis

In 2019, approximately nine riders utilized the service per operating day, while 2020 saw seven riders a day. In 2021, the numbers averaged around six riders each day. 

Since the transition to the subsidized taxi program in August 2021, there have been approximately six to seven users, with an average of 15 people per month utilizing the service.

As for the changing needs of the community, Kim Lewis notes that the fundamental requirements remain consistent. 

“Seniors and others who are not able to drive themselves need a way to get to appointments, the bank, post office, and groceries,” she said. 

In a sprawling community like the Crowsnest Pass, access to reliable transportation is crucial, especially for those without other means of getting around.

The program had been running off and on in some capacity until August of 2021 when the municipality transitioned to a subsidized taxi program, Lewis explained

The subsidized taxi program is for seniors aged 60 and up and individuals with permanent disabilities who meet specific income criteria. 

For single people it is an income under $30,000 and for couples it is under $48,000. Kim Lewis manages the program and is available at 403-563-2207. The subsidized taxi operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a dedicated driver who caters to the needs of the riders.

Despite its many benefits, one challenge facing the taxi program is a lack of wheelchair accessibility. Lewis acknowledged the issue and mentions that they are actively researching options to provide this to citizens of the Pass.

RIDECrowsnest and its change into a subsidized taxi program have been vital to the well-being of Crowsnest Pass residents.

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