Didsbury opts not to support bus service
Tri-community transit pilot project may be in jeopardy when committee meets Sept. 4
The future of the Tri-Community Transit initiative, a Carstairs-led pilot project that offers citizens in the region better access to essential services in Calgary and Airdrie, was dealt a serious blow last week when Didsbury town council decided not to financially support the service.
Last June, representatives from the initiative, which primarily serves citizens in Carstairs, Cremona and Didsbury, approached Didsbury town council for a $5,000 contribution.
However, on July 24 members of Didsbury council noted there was a serious concern that only three local residents were using the service, and felt the money would be better used to support the local Didsbury Lions Shuttle Bus, which provides in-town service on Wednesdays and Fridays, and out-of-town charters on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“That need is not as great here as other areas or other communities,” said Brian Wittal, mayor of Didsbury. “I would rather support the Lions Club to enhance that service in the local community rather than put $5,000 in this pilot project for the region.”
Coun. Peter Versluys, who is the chair of the pilot project’s advisory committee, said he was baffled as to why Didsbury residents were not using the service.
“But we can’t make them,” he said. “One option is that this doesn’t go further, that there is not enough usage to warrant it, or there may be other options. The citizens of Carstairs have used the service more than any other community.”
Didsbury’s decision to not support the pilot project was a blow to Carstairs community officials. In May the Town of Carstairs agreed to provide the service, which was originally designed as a six-month pilot project, a $5,000 financial boost. Mountain View County has also contributed $5,000 and there has been additional support from Cremona.
The targeted budget for the service for one year is $56,400.
“It is disappointing to hear this. My personal feeling is that the six-month pilot timeline is not really enough time to give an accurate reading of need - especially when you consider July and August are the slowest months of the year for this kind of service,” said Robbin Bowman, director of the Carstairs office of Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), who remains optimistic the program can still survive without Didsbury’s financial support. “I am hopeful, very hopeful. We have a rare opportunity and it is not time to throw in the towel.”
The Tri-Community Transit initiative began last year when officials from the communities of Carstairs, Didsbury and Cremona recognized current modes of transportation available to regional residents were insufficient to meet growing needs, notably in getting citizens to Airdrie and Calgary for important medical appointments.
The three communities formed steering and advisory committees and Crossfield’s Rocky View Regional Handibus Society (RVRHS) was contacted. The RVRHS, which has a 31-year history servicing six municipalities and two school boards, provides a handibus, along with dispatch and booking services. The service also includes operations supervision, and has an 800 contact number, statistics tracking software and a link to its website (www.rockyviewbus.ca).
Since the pilot project began last January, residents from the three communities and Mountain View County have demonstrated increased usage of the service, with Carstairs citizens making up for 82 per cent of the requests for service.
Members of the initiative’s advisory committee are meeting on Sept. 4 when it is expected the future direction of the pilot project will be discussed.
“The advisory committee will have to decide how the project is going to continue forward after the pilot project is evaluated September 30,” said Bowman. “It is still needed for Carstairs. We have no intention of bailing out.”
For more information on the service and bookings, contact RVRHS at 1-877-389-2887.