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Monday, September 25, 2023
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Route changes under consideration

Route changes under consideration
Herald file photo.

The City of Prince Albert’s transportation department head is recommending that 26 new bus stops be added and five removed to better serve the city’s transit users.

On Monday, Prince Albert transportation and traffic manager Keri Sapsford presented findings and recommendations from the city’s public transit consultation process to city council.

Those recommendations include adding 10 new stops in the West Hill area, as well as another three in the East Flat, two in the West Flat, one in East Hill, three on the All Day Route and seven in the former 15th Street Shuttle Route, which will be renamed the Post-Secondary Special.

Sapsford said adding stops will decrease the overall speed of the service, but added that all routes should still run on a 30-minute loop.

“Most of the locations where we added stops were routes where we have a little bit of extra time already,” she explained. “Adding an extra stop, hopefully, won’t cause delays, and if they do or they’re not used, then we’ll remove them.”

Of the five bus stops slated for removal, the most controversial was the Muzzy Drive, 28th Street and 22nd Street portion of the 15th Street Shuttle Route.

Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick strongly objected to the proposal, saying it would eliminate service to a large area of the city.

Sapsford recommended discontinuing that portion of the loop because it only had an average of 10 riders, and added that cutting it would help prevent that route from running behind schedule.

That portion of the route is primarily used by students travelling to and from St. Mary High School. It only runs during rush hour.

Route changes weren’t the only issue up for contention. Councillors also debated payment options for the extended running hours trial period, which is set to begin in September.

The city has applied for a Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) grant to help pay the estimated $91,000 it will cost during the three-month trial period. However, a motion to dip into the Fiscal Stabilization Fund should the grant be rejected was met with disapproval from Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski, who called the decision “inappropriate,” and from Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody.

“Fiscal stabilization, there’s lots of money in there, but if we whittle away at it, is that how we budget? Is that how we operate?” Cody said. “I don’t think that’s how we should operate.”

Both Cody and Zurakowski said they would like to see the extended hours in place, but noted there were only so many dollars to go around.

Mayor Greg Dionne spoke in favour of the motion, saying council had rarely dipped into the fund since being elected last fall, and noted this was the only account they could draw from should the grant funding fall through.

Although the proposal was ultimately approved at Monday’s executive committee meeting, along with all the proposed route changes, the decision is not final. Formal approval will have to wait until the next city council meeting on Aug. 8.

@kerr_jas • jason.kerr@paherald.sk.ca