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Home City Council Trial of extended bus route operation hours to be considered at Monday’s Executive Committee meeting

Trial of extended bus route operation hours to be considered at Monday’s Executive Committee meeting

Trial of extended bus route operation hours to be considered at Monday’s Executive Committee meeting
A bus driver waits for passengers to board at Prince Albert's downtown transit station. -- Herald file photo

City Council will be discussing a proposed extension of weekday transit hours on a trial basis due to increased demand for later operating hours as the City of Prince Albert continues to grow.

Transportation and Traffic Manager Evan Hastings will present a report for consideration during Monday’s Executive Committee meeting that from March 13 to March 31, the Rush Hour Service hours be extended from 9:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. half-hourly, the operating frequency for all routes be reduced from half-hourly to hourly between 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., and for all transit route operations to be extended hourly from 7:15 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.

On Jan. 25, the City was approved for the One-Time Public Transit Funding from the Provincial and Federal Government for a total value of $415,038. Of this, $265,000 was allocated toward a Transit extended hours trial.

The service will create additional bus pass revenue during the trial period, as more people will utilize the Transit system, says the report.

Currently, the Prince Albert Transit service operates by a half-hourly fixed route, with no buses running on Sundays or holidays. The five main routes operate from 6:45 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. Monday to Friday and Saturdays from 9:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m for a total of 350 hours weekly. The Rush Hour route runs from 6:45 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. on weekdays with no operation on Saturdays, for a total of 35 hours a week.

According to Hastings’ report, the City of Prince Albert has seen a 55 per cent increase in transit usage over the last 18 years, with only a 2 per cent increase in service hours. The proposed extended operation will represent a 17 per cent increase to weekday transit hours.

“As the costs of fuel and vehicle ownership have increased, more people look towards public transit as their primary source of transportation,” the report reads. “The extension of weekday transit hours has been a constant and consistent request from the general public.”

The City’s Transit System operates on a fixed route basis with a Central Transfer Station. This means that most riders have to take a bus to the transfer station then get on a separate bus to complete their trip, with some trips taking up to 50 minutes depending on the bus locations.

Although the transit system currently operates until 7:15 p.m., most riders need to be on the bus during the 6:15 p.m. loop to make it to their final destination before service ends.

Part of Hastings review while writing the report was conducting consultation, including with the City of Brandon Transit Department and the City’s Transit Service Contractor First Canada ULC.

His research found that the City of Brandon has a similar transit system to Prince Albert. They operate from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. on weekdays and successfully turns from a half-hourly to hourly service from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m.

First Canada also confirmed that they are able to provide service during the trial hours if approved.

Following the trial’s completion, a report will be presented to the Aug. 14 Executive Committee meeting outlining the collected statistics, with a recommendation for scheduled 2024 transit hours. The report will include any increases to monthly passes and coin-based revenue, as well as transit ridership.

If approved, Public Works and the Communication Department will create an advertising campaign to properly inform the public of the extension to service. This includes social media posts, updating the City’s website, posting notices on each transit bus, updating the City Transit brochures, and posting on the City’s billboard on Second Avenue West and 15th Street.