Bus Service

Did You Know? . . . In-town bus service has been curbed due to low community response.  The average number of users during the trial period was 2-3 per day.

Town bus service curbed due to low response

The Town of Athabasca sponsored a free in-town bus service late last year, for about five weeks leading up to Christmas, to test community interest and the viability of the service. Unfortunately, the number of users did not match the enthusiasm of those who initially called for the service. As a result, Town Council has decided to park the bus service. Whether or not the service will be reconsidered at a future date has not been determined.

Council discussed the issue at their regular meeting on Jan. 16 where Councillor Mike Gismondi opened the discussion by acknowledging Yvonne Cumbleton of YC Charters for supplying the bus and driver for the pilot project. He continued the discussion, noting “it wasn’t a very successful take-up of our generous proposal to run the pilot.”

Although the number of passengers increased in the final week of the pilot, going as high as 10 on the Wednesday, and the Dec. 1 Moonlight Madness event attracted 22 passengers, statistics indicate that in the first four weeks there were never more than seven passengers a day. The average number was two to three. When it was coldest, there were no passengers.

“We were told there was a big demand for this – and it had good coverage in the paper,” stated Councillor Gismondi. He asked if it might have been the wrong time of year to do the pilot and if Council should consider trying it again at a different time.

Councillor Hugh O’Farrell questioned the value of doing another test, adding, “If they were going to use it, it would be in the winter time.”

Favourable to the idea of giving the bus service another trial run, Councillor Colleen Powell noted that in a future attempt, certain routes or special events could be taken into consideration. “It has to be publicized more,” she added and pointed out that using a school bus presented certain constraints such as size and accessibility.

Councillor Powell also stated that public transit seldom appears to make money. “If we did it, it would have to be on the basis that we would be running on a deficit,” she said.

Councillor Lionel Cherniwchan offered insight into response from people in the community.

“I don’t think it’s an idea small communities are ready for,” he stated. “The biggest thing, people told me, was not being willing to ride 45 minutes to get where they’re going to.”

Councillor George Hawryluk agreed that the length of the ride was too long, but he is still in favour of providing a bus service.

“We need more advertising to make people aware of what it is all about – (and) signage, schedules,” he said, adding, “I say, give it another shot with better planning.”

“Give it another shot,” agreed Councillor Paula Evans. “But with some form of government funding,” she added, in reference to an earlier comment by Councillor Gismondi regarding the possibility of the government providing a per-capita model of some sort.

“There are a variety of ways of looking at how it’s done that we could look at in the future,” noted Councillor Powell. “As Councillor Evans said, we’ve got to look for that federal funding.”

No date was set for revisiting the issue.

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