A new bus service running from Strathmore to municipalities within the region and to Calgary is being considered.
The Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP), of which Strathmore is a member, is looking at the viability of a new transit system that would transport residents in Strathmore, Chestermere and Cochrane.
According to Ettore Iannacito, regional transit program manager with the CRP, the proposed transit service would provide an opportunity to connect municipalities within the region with each other and connect Strathmore residents to commute to Calgary.
“I think it’s a great example of delivering a regional service in a multi municipal environment,” said Iannacito. “Working together with your neighbours or working together with other municipalities within the region with a common goal. It’s a great example of how we can deliver a regional service.”
The On-It transit system recently launched a two-year pilot project through an innovative partnership between Black Diamond, High River, Okotoks, Turner Valley and the CRP. The service does not replace private express buses currently operating between High River, Okotoks and downtown Calgary.
“Honestly, people love this bus,” said Iannacito. “There’s no road rage, no red lights, no more people changing lanes like crazy. Basically, it’s a relaxing ride.”
The system currently offered to these small communities south of Calgary serves as a case study for the possibility of bringing the same service to Strathmore. Iannacito said the CRP has everything in place and is able to learn from this service.
“You have an opportunity in front of you to run a pilot with the three municipalities and I’m telling you it could happen as early as October, September of next year,” said Iannacito. “Getting a subsidy to do this is pretty much up to the board but assured.”
The On-It transit system provides a seating capacity of 55 passengers on coach-style buses with overhead storage, individual cushion seats, a bathroom and other amenities.
“It’s just a phenomenal bus,” said Iannacito.
During Iannacito’s presentation at the Nov. 16 Strathmore town council meeting, town councillor Denise Peterson said: “I’m very hopeful about this pilot and I believe that it will give people who want to move to Strathmore a reason to do that.”
First Student, a school bus transportation provider, currently offers groups in Strathmore the opportunity to book one of their buses for weddings, field trips, corporate transportation and other group outings.
The current On-It transit system south of Calgary contracts through Southland for buses.
“They (First Student) provide a different type of service,” says Iannacito. “We would work with them to make sure we’re not duplicating any type of service and the benefit would be to Strathmore residents. We would just complement their service.”
The CRP developed a cost sharing formula of what the new service could look like for Strathmore. It includes 20 per cent of the estimated cost as equal distribution between the three communities, 40 per cent of the cost charged by population and 40 per cent charged by the number of service hours utilized.
Other opportunities include running the bus as an event-based charter service on the weekends or running it between various municipalities on the weekends.
Iannacito said there is opportunity for the bus to travel to downtown Calgary or to Rundle station. Driving to the station would allow more trips because of the shorter distance.
“We would prefer to go to the station rather than try to go downtown Calgary, but let’s see what the research tells us,” said Iannacito.
Coun. Bob Sobol commented on the proposed system: “This just makes sense and I think our community is going to benefit greatly from a program such as this.”
The CRP’s next steps for Strathmore include engaging the public, and preparing and conducting a survey to determine how likely area residents would be to use the service.