Regional busing services ask County for funds
Rocky View County’s Public Services Committee unanimously voted to recommend that council allocate $170,200 to regional transportation services for seniors and those with disabilities, May 15.
The budget will be split between the Rocky View Regional Handibus Society (RVRHS) and Bragg Creek Snowbirds Seniors Fellowship Society (BCSSFS) in the amounts of $161,600 and $3,600, respectively, with the remaining $5,000 to be divided among 10 individual resident applications.
“We’re trying to make sure that all 4,000 square kilometres of Rocky View have coverage,” said RVRHS General Manager Paul Sillar in a presentation to the committee.
“We’ve been facing a very busy year, as we’ve moved into new areas. We have found a surprising number of residents who never knew there was a bus available and are now utilizing it on a regular basis.”
Councillor Kim Magnuson asked if larger ridership or an increase in the number of buses and staff had driven up the cost of running the service, which increased from $96,000 in 2011.
“The biggest change over previous years is expanding to fill the gap and the fact that we are simply travelling more,” Sillar replied.
“What is driving the cost up is longer distances, the price of fuel and the need to run the program. I don’t think it’s any one major thing, it’s just that it’s growing in all directions.”
Sillar said the RVRHS has been transporting residents, particularly in the northwest and eastern areas of the county, to medical facilities in Cochrane, Chestermere and Calgary for years. This year, he said, the society is striving to provide better service to residents in all corners of the county, particularly in Bearspaw, Jumping Pound, Bragg Creek and southwest Rocky View.
The total number of one-way trips provided to 60 county residents by the RVRHS in 2011 was 1,954, with an additional 4,284 one-way trips for in-town residents. Those numbers are expected to climb to roughly 2,405 (by 76 residents) and 5,190 this year, respectively.
“Two years ago, we were covering about half of Rocky View and now we’re covering nearly all of it,” said Sillar.
He said the society has historically received “reasonable” amounts of funding from the Town of Chestermere, Town of Cochrane and Rocky View County, adding they are thrilled to have that support.
Councillor Earl Solberg said he would like to see more funding coming from the Alberta government to subsidize the service.
“I’m rather disappointed that the Province only provides $7,000 for this service for the year,” said Solberg. “That’s pretty weak.”
Sillar informed Solberg that the amount was not in fact an annual allotment, but simply leftover from a previous grant.
“There is no money from the Alberta government,” he said. “We’ve learned that the hard way.”
Solberg urged the society to speak with newly elected Chestermere-Rocky View- MLA Bruce McAllister on the matter.
Fred Bosch of the BCSSFS said the organization’s ridership has also increased over the past year.
The grant allocations will be presented to council for approval at the meeting of May 29.