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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Town of Pincher Creek awarded $303,333 for transit service project

"We identified three main areas of things that we wanted to work on a few years ago. One was housing, one was facilities, and the other one was transportation." - Town of Pincher Creek Mayor Don Anderberg
Chris Davis -  At a press release event earlier today Town of Pincher Creek Mayor Don Anderberg announced the Town has been awarded $303,333 in Government of Alberta GreenTRIP funding toward the establishment of a transit service.  According to the press release, the capital cost of the project is $455,000 and will include busing within the Town of Pincher Creek "with the goal of improving mobility and quality of life in the Town of Pincher Creek in a way that is financially efficient, feasible and sustainable."
"Once we get our system up and running, Pincher Creek will be the smallest community in Canada to offer regularly scheduled buses." - Community Transportation Committee member Councillor Doug Thornton


Transport Canada last week announced that "Alberta communities received more than $500 million in federal, provincial and municipal funding for transit projects on December 3, 2016, bringing the total investment to more than $930 million. There are 138 projects underway in 27 communities."

According to Mayor Anderberg, last Thursday he received an invitation from Alberta Transport Minister Brian Mason to attend an event in Calgary on Saturday December 3. The GreenTRIP funding was announced at that event. Anderberg and Community Transportation Committee member Councillor Doug Thornton attended, as did a number of other dignitaries, including Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Minister Mason, and Canada Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi.

 
"We are the smallest community there," Anderberg said of the list of GreenTRIP grant recipient communities.  "We really didn't think we were going to get this."

"I think the really important part of this is that five or six years ago it was identified (as an issue) in the town about in-town busing for students, and we have tried to work on that situation for a long time and I think we may be able to address that problem now." Some children in Pincher Creek do not qualify for busing, as they have to live a certain distance from the school they attend to meet the current criteria. "Hopefully we can address some of these issues, and provide some mobility for some of our seniors, also." Mayor Anderberg thanked the committee, council and administration for their support. "It's an exciting day."

Inter-community transportation (to Crowsnest Pass or Fort Macleod, for examples) has been discussed at length, but isn't part of the current project, according to Mayor Anderberg. "Not at the moment, but that is part of the long term strategy."

"One step at a time."

"I believe we'd like to run a scheduled service, so people know they could walk to the end of the block and get on the bus." Mayor Anderberg said the service would likely be open to the public, of any age, and ideas being considered include possible regular routes and/or an on-demand feature whereby a person could call for transportation. "We have got lots of ideas, we have to work on them now. We certainly weren't expecting this." He said consultations with current transportation providers in the area will be an immediate priority. There is no timeline yet for when the new community transportation service will begin, but it will be "As soon as possible."

"We will work on it right away." According to Town CAO Laurie Wilgosh, all the paperwork has not yet been received by the town yet, so administration could not give specific answers as to what the obligations of the GreenTRIP funding agreement might entail.

Councillor Thornton said "To help us with this, we are going to become members of the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA). According to their website, "CUTA is a member-based association that supports public transit as the core of integrated mobility across Canada. We do this by providing our members with the resources, networking, training, events, data, research and advocacy needed to support their success in the industry."

"We can avoid a lot of mistakes by avoiding the ones that other people have made before us," said councillor Thornton. "Once we get our system up and running, Pincher Creek will be the smallest community in Canada to offer regular scheduled buses."

Councillor Wayne Elliott noted that both the provincial and federal ministers in attendance the announcement event in Calgary were former bus drivers. Brian Mason and Amarjeet Sohi were both Edmonton Transit System bus drivers before becoming elected officials.

Mayor Anderberg said the trip to the announcement meeting on Saturday was an interesting one.  "Councillor Thornton and I took public transportation to get to the event in downtown Calgary. So, we hopped on the C-Train in the south, and rode it downtown. The two Ministers and the Mayor (of Calgary) showed up on the C-Train, also, and they were arguing over who was going to drive that train. Mayor Nenshi wouldn't let either one of them drive it. So I'm not getting into that political conversation. They are both well versed in transportation." 

Mayor Anderberg added "I can see our transportation minister, Brian Mason, is really involved."


Background

The Government of Canada is providing the Government of Alberta with $347,190,000 under the new Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF), which will fund up to 50% of eligible project costs for 49 PTIF projects around the province, with the Government of Alberta contributing a total $342.2 million and recipient municipalities funding the $243.5 million balance.  The Government of Alberta is providing $156.5 million in GreenTRIP funding for an additional 37 projects around the province, including the Pincher Creek project, providing up to two-thirds of the project cost. Municipalities will provide the balance of $79.2 million, for a total of $235.7 million in project costs.

According to an Alberta Transportation FAQ, in their 2016 budget "the federal government announced the new Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF), which includes a $3.4-billion investment over three years beginning in 2016-2017. Alberta’s allocation under PTIF is $347.1 million based on the provincial share of national transit ridership. In July 2016, the Government of Alberta expanded GreenTRIP’s eligibility to align with PTIF to help Alberta municipalities maximize support from both funding programs."

Under direction from council and with the efforts of the Town's administration, Pincher Creek's Community Transportation Committee (Councillors Doug Thornton and Lorne Jackson) seized the opportunity to apply for GreenTRIP funding after several years of discussions about transportation issues in the Town and region. Those discussions have included gathering input from community members and organizations, and extensive dialogues with nearby municipalities, including the MD of Pincher Creek, Village of Cowley, Crowsnest Pass, Fort Macleod, and Claresholm. Continuing joint discussions with the Town of Fort Macleod about possible synergies have been particularly effective, according to committee members and Mayor Anderberg.

At an August 2016 Town of Pincher Creek council meeting regular meeting council directed administration to move forward with an application to the Green Transit Initiative Program for a public transit system. Mayor Don Anderberg said at that time that "The GreenTRIP funding is two thirds/one third. Two thirds Provincial/Federal money, one third municipal, if we are successful." Administration informed council that the estimated capital cost for initiating a Pincher Creek bus service would be $455,000. This figure included the cost of purchasing one bus, and the construction of 25 bus zones, 5 passenger shelters, and 5 benches, according to the preliminary transit service business plan provided by consultants HDR Inc. Councillor Doug Thornton said "This is an important thing for the future of our community."

Nearby, the Lethbridge Transit Terminal and Regional Park-n-Ride project will receive $2,027,000 in federal funding and $2,027,000 in provincial funding under the PTIF program. The city's Regional Park-n-Ride transit terminal project will receive $8,080,000 towards a total eligible project cost of $12,956,000 from the province under the GreenTRIP program, which will also provide $420,000 for an accessibility enhancements project with a total eligible cost of $630,000.


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