Bus route changes pass at council

City council has voted to pass transit route changes and extended bus hours, against the opposition of a councillor who said it leaves out residents in Crescent Acres.

The changes will lop two kilometres off the 15 Street rush hour service, and rejig stops along every route. It will also switch a stretch of the West Hill route from 4 Avenue West to 6 Avenue West, as soon as Marquis Road is lengthened. Nighthawks and shift workers will benefit from longer service hours, with buses running to 11:15 p.m. on an hourly basis.

But Councillor Dennis Ogrodnick had harsh words for a decision to remove three stops along Olive Diefenbaker Drive and Muzzy Drive.

“I feel that it’s going to affect the lives of people in that area negatively,” Ogrodnick said. “It takes the whole neighbourhood out of public transit.”

He admitted that the route wasn’t as well used as some others in the city, but said he needs to stand up for the residents in his ward. He called the rest of the plan “awesome.”

Ogrodnick was the lone councillor to vote against the plan at a Monday council session. Now that it’s passed, the changes will go into effect for a four month trial period, starting September. In November, city staff will reassess ridership to see whether the changes are attracting new transit users.

Transit manager Keri Sapsford said the plan aims to get as many residents as possible within 400 metres of a bus stop. She said it also works well for students, bringing a bus up to the front door of every post secondary institution in the city.

She stressed that the changes don’t add any expense to the city’s budget. The only cost comes from the extended hours.

“There is no cost to the cost of the service changes,” she said. “It’s $91,000 to extend the service for four months.”

Councillor Evert Botha is a big supporter of the changes, which he hopes will open new possibilities for residents to experience Prince Albert.

“With extended areas we will hopefully be able to see an increase in ridership, especially from younger people,” he said. “That’s a great opportunity for all members of our community to get around to see the movies, work or shop.”

Meeting the 400 metre goal was a challenge, he admits, stressing that no route change is likely to “please everyone.” But there’s still plenty of time to go back to the drawing board.

“This is a pilot. If the routes work, we will reinvest; if they don’t, we will tweak it to optimize it,” he said.

“We wanted to provide access to as many members of our community as possible.”