BOLT Transit is living to see another day.
Lacombe city council voted 4-3 this week against giving one year’s notice to scrap the regional bus service. The deal with Red Deer Transit for the BOLT, which connects Lacombe to Blackfalds and Red Deer, is for 18 years. It launched in 2014.
Mayor Grant Creasey and councillors Reuben Konnik and Chris Ross voted to shelve the service, citing low ridership.
A report shows that in 2017, there were fewer than eight riders on each of the first two afternoon trips. Numbers range from 10-19 for the four other trips during peak morning and late afternoon hours.
“I was on council when we approved BOLT, and along with now Mayor Creasey, we were the two at that time who voted against it,” says Konnik. “I have a real issue with the amount of subsidization. It’s a very large dollar amount.”
The report further shows that in 2016, The City of Lacombe subsidized BOLT to the tune of almost $225,000.
Councillor Cora Hoekstra, who voted to keep BOLT Transit, says there is value in having regional transportation for all kinds of people.
“There any many people who don’t have access to personal transportation who need to access services that only exist in Red Deer and the BOLT is that means for people to access those, but also to enhance their life with a way to get around,” she says.
“Should we do it at a great expense that is not a wise use of taxpayer money? No. But I still think this, with some review, and now looking at a relationship with Burman University, we can tweak how the BOLT has been functioning.”
City council accepted a proposal this week for a UPass program with Burman University. The three-year commitment includes a low-cost universal pass for each student in exchange for additional bus service tailored to the school’s needs. There will be an additional BOLT trip Monday to Friday in the evenings, a Sunday charter service, and cancellation of the current Saturday service.
The City of Lacombe is also working to establish a regional transit governance committee which will explore opportunities to increase ridership of the BOLT bus service.
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