Prince Albert’s other transit systems need consideration

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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An important piece of the equation was missing at Monday’s public transit debate at city hall.

 

City Hall

Click HERE for an article on city council's public forum discussion on public transit. 

Providing 34,857 rides in 2013, the Community Service Centre’s seniors and special needs transportation efforts play important roles within the city’s public transportation network, executive director Merv Bender said on Tuesday.

“We should be part of the discussion -- obviously -- as to where the city wants to go,” Bender said.

“I hope they recognize and see the value of what we do, but at the same time I don’t know whether there’s a lot of capacity to expand in our existing model if there’s reduction in public transit, but I guess that’ll be a discussion as things go on.”

On the table at Monday’s meeting were a handful of recommended service level increases to the city’s public transportation program.

The city’s elected officials capped the discussion by concluding that the sweeping change being requested needs to be put on hold until more variables are factored in, such as the services provide through the Community Service Centre.

The Community Service Centre operates seniors and special needs transportation -- efforts separate from the public transit services up for discussion on Monday.

The city awarded seniors care transportation a grant of $62,000 last year, and the Community Service Centre raised an additional $60,575 for the service through other means, such as user fees and the Two Miles for Mary fundraiser.

Special needs transportation received $505,660 from the city in 2013, between operation cost and vehicle maintenance and capital, with an additional $81,330 raised through other means, such as user fees.

Of the city’s $567,660 total contribution for both services, the provincial government covered $180,000 through a transit assistance program for persons with disabilities, paring the municipal contribution down to $387,660.

In 2013, 28,604 people made use of special needs transportation and 6,253 rides were given through the seniors transportation program.

Our ability to connect people who are living on their own to the services that they need in the community without having to find alternative living accommodations because we connect them to the service, is a pretty key thing. Merv Bender

In 2012, the city’s regular transit service provided 324,457 passenger trips and the municipality subsidized the service by $664,805.

Although the cost per ride ratio is lower for regular transit service, Bender notes that seniors and special needs transportation are necessary for many residents.

“They’re frail elderly folks whose mobility is already being challenged by old age or health,” he said, noting that about half of the people who use seniors transportation need help to get on and off of the vehicle.

“In my mind, seniors transportation service is really critical when it comes to quality of life.

“Our ability to connect people who are living on their own to the services that they need in the community without having to find alternative living accommodations because we connect them to the service, is a pretty key thing.”

Looking forward to upcoming budget discussions, Bender said that the Community Service Centre will be requesting a “modest” service level increase. It won’t be anything extravagant, he said -- just enough to keep service at status quo, which appears to be adequate at the moment.

“I think we’re managing,” he said. “Of the people who have called this past year, we only turned down 321 trips in the entire year in special needs and 429 on the seniors side -- so, our refusal or turnover rate is very low, in my view.”

Most of these refusals are likely due to short notice, he said, noting that compared with other paratransit organizations their statistics stack up well.  

“Last year we did not receive any operating increase, but through good management we were able to not actually reduce service, even tough we have some fixed costs that have gone up.” 

Click HERE for an article comparing Prince Albert's public transit system to those in Moose Jaw and Brandon. 

Organizations: Community Service Centre, Prince Albert

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