Rural Albertans in the Camrose and Grande Prairie regions will have better access to public transportation thanks to a new provincial pilot program.
Four projects, expected to be up and running this fall, will receive a total of more than $1.4 million over two years as part of the Rural Transportation Pilot Program funded through Budget 2018.
The projects will support new and expanded public transportation services to fill service gaps between communities where there is no existing provider. They will improve public transportation services between Alberta’s mid-sized urban centres and their surrounding communities.
“Our government made a commitment to try to help people living in rural Alberta with their transportation needs. Whether it is a medical appointment, classes for school or simply a shopping trip, projects like these will help people get from one community to another in a faster and more efficient way. I hope these pilot projects help set a course for expanded services in the future.”
~Brian Mason, Minister of Transportation
The City of Camrose will receive two grants — more than $450,000 to establish a regular bus shuttle service between Camrose and Edmonton and more than $137,000 to hire a regional transit coordinator who will oversee ride-sharing opportunities in the area.
With a grant of nearly $640,000, Grande Prairie County will provide a regional transit service that connects Sexsmith, Clairmont, Wembley, Beaverlodge and Hythe with the City of Grande Prairie’s existing transit system.
*The Municipal District of Spirit River will use a $200,000 contribution to expand the existing Family and Community Support Services Transportation program van service between Spirit River, Rycroft and Grande Prairie from one day a month to three days a week.
These regions were selected for the program because they are home to large numbers of Albertans who do not have access to regional transit services. Other projects are being considered for funding.
“Members of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta and our neighbouring communities who are eligible for this program are happy to hear that the Government of Alberta is putting dollars to support our public transportation needs. Our communities need better access to education, health care, jobs and to connect with families, so this is a step in the right direction.”
~Al Kemmere, president, Rural Municipalities of Alberta
“Our council is pleased that our two projects were selected to be part of this innovative rural transportation program. The Camrose-Edmonton shuttle service, provided by Red Arrow and supported by the new ride-share plan, will open up educational, health care, employment, recreation and social opportunities that residents in the city and across the county did not have before.”
~Norman Mayer, mayor, Camrose
“Distance remains a real factor for rural communities in Alberta, particularly for younger citizens and for the large proportion of seniors who live in rural Alberta. Systematic and regionally based transportation initiatives such as this are ideal for communities such as Camrose, and are a major step forward in keeping rural communities connected.”
~Lars Hallstrom, director, Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
The program was developed with input received through a provincewide public engagement with Albertans in 2016 and targeted consultation in 2017. It is designed to allow eligible municipalities to identify and implement projects that best meet the unique needs of their communities.
- More than 100,000 people live in the Camrose and Grande Prairie regions, where the four projects are located.
- Eligible projects included ride-sharing services, conventional transit or new taxi services.
- Operating costs are eligible for funding under the pilot program, including labour costs, software requirements and vehicle operating costs such as gas and insurance.
- Applications were assessed on the following criteria:
- regional collaboration
- addresses service gap
- connects to the broader transit system
- social benefits, such as providing connections to medical appointments, shopping and jobs
- level of cost-sharing from partners
- post-pilot project evaluation/continuation plan
- Transit services between major centres already served by established bus operators were not eligible for funding.
- The government will use information from the pilot program to consider its ongoing approach to supporting rural public transportation.