If no one’s getting on the bus, it’s time to re-evaluate regional transit service to be more fiscally responsible and better meet the community’s needs.
Low ridership on the year-and-a-half-old On-it commuter transit service has driven the towns of Black Diamond and High River to pull out of the program. Black Diamond Mayor Ruth Goodwin said an average of two people in town per day use On-it, while High River mayor Craig Snodgrass says four to six people per day are using it in his community, though these numbers are higher during bad weather or free-ride promotions. Okotoks also axed local transit service in the fall due to low ridership.
Black Diamond and High River councils are doing the right thing. It’s not reasonable to continue paying tens of thousands of dollars for a service that is used by a small minority. Goodwin estimated if the Calgary Regional Partnership subsidizes the project, it will cost the town approximately $17,000 for 144 days from the end of March until the end of October. If not, the bill would be about $41,000. This is simply too much to pay for so few riders.
Launched in October 2016 as a test run of commuter service in the Foothills, On-it was intended to run until October this year.
It’s time to take stock and determine whether changes can be made to improve the service and make it more economical. It needs to be convenient and serve people’s needs. It should also be fast and convenient to make a person want to get out of their vehicle. Long travel times from High River and Black Diamond are a downside, as is the fact the bus only goes to the south Calgary LRT. More importantly, though, it needs to be fiscally responsible.
By its very nature, public transit will be subsidized by tax dollars. This subsidy should be reasonable. Transit services will eventually become more important as Okotoks and Foothills communities grow in the coming years.
It’s important to get it right.