Paratransit bus fleet in its best shape in decades

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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The city’s paratransit bus fleet is in excellent shape, Prince Albert Community Service Centre executive director Merv Bender said on Thursday.

 

“Our capital fleet is in the best shape it’s been in for (almost) 20 years,” he said during a press event introducing two new buses.

“We now only really have one very, very old, very part-time spare bus that we use that isn’t within the eight-year capital replacement frame.”

During a press event on Thursday, Prince Albert Northcote MLA Victoria Jurgens announced a pledge of $51,691 toward the new buses, which cost about $72,000 each.

The balance will be covered by the municipal government’s capital reserve budget, Bender explained.

“It’s always a challenge supplying special needs (transportation), because you’re always restricted by budget and accessibility,” Mayor Greg Dionne said.

“It’s a challenge to get money from us, and a challenge from the (provincial) government, so it’s two levels of government,” he added with a laugh.

“It’s still a need in our community -- longer hours, especially, so our special needs can go to the hockey games and shows and stuff afterwards.”

Evening service expansion is one common request among users, Bender said, noting that current evening service is limited to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The provincial government is working on developing what Jurgens described as “comprehensive disabilities strategy,” which Bender said he’s waiting to see before putting forth any service expansion proposal.

“We are doing our best to becoming the best place in Canada for people with disabilities,” Jurgens said, adding that Thursday’s announcement “takes us another step closer.”

The two new buses arrived in December -- the nick of time, Bender said, noting that two older buses recently failed to pass inspections -- the first in August and the second in November.

The two new buses have the capacity for seven wheelchairs and five ambulatory persons.

In addition to the $51,691 bus contribution, the provincial government has provided the Prince Albert Community Service Centre with $181,794 in its current fiscal year for fleet operations, Jurgens said.

Our capital fleet is in the best shape it’s been in for (almost) 20 years. Merv Bender

Thursday’s media event included two of the city’s 582 paratransit bus users -- a group that took 36,514 trips in 2013.

Bonnie Kristiansen and Dennis Demerais spoke about their own experiences with the transit system.

Kristiansen is a relatively new user, having fallen and hurt her shoulder in 2011.

She explained that she uses the paratransit system out of fear of falling again, “because if I fall again it’ll be a shoulder replacement.”

In a wheelchair, Demerais said that his mobility is made less limited as a direct result of the paratransit system, which he uses at least three times per week.

“I take it to the mall, I take it swimming -- my hydrotherapy -- everything” he said.

“It’s a very important part of my life … I’m very, very satisfied with the system. They do a remarkable job.” 

Organizations: Prince Albert Community Service Centre

Geographic location: Canada

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