June 14th, 2024

New cityLINK network set to roll starting next week

By Herald on August 19, 2021.

A Lethbridge Transit bus waits at the downtown terminal Thursday as the City gets set to launch the new cityLINK network next week. Herald photo by Al Beeber

Al Beeber – Lethbridge Herald

The city’s public transit system will look and operate differently starting on Aug. 25.

On that date the new cityLINK network is being launched in Lethbridge which will see wide changes to service.

City bus service will consist of fixed routes and an on-demand service for residents on lesser-used routes. That on-demand service will be available by calling 311 or by downloading the “Rides on Demand” app which is available for Android and Apple devices.

Every bus route will change in some fashion, Lethbridge Transit general manager Tim Sanderson said on Thursday at the downtown Park ’n Ride transit terminal.

Changes will include a so-called 10/10 service between the University of Lethbridge and the city centre. This means buses will leave every 10 minutes and arrive at their destination in 10 minutes.

Bi-directional lines have been created to get passengers to their destinations quicker. Lethbridge Transit is also improving access to popular destinations such as the hospital, the ATB Centre in West Lethbridge and commercial areas along Mayor Magrath Drive.

“It’s a huge undertaking for Lethbridge Transit,” said Sanderson, and it started with the Transit Master Plan in 2017. Last fall, the department was directed by council to do a change and has seen a $350,000 budget cut.

Routes with high ridership will see improved service while the on-demand system will pick riders up at their homes and take them to a destination in their particular zone. If they need to travel to a different zone, they will be dropped off at a “hub” to board a bus to take them to a different area.

The change, Sanderson acknowledges, will make for “a mess” on the first day of cityLink because not all riders will be aware of the new system.

“Our goal is to provide an efficient transit system,” he said.

Riders will see bus stops changed on routes, with some farther away than before and others closer.

“We are going to be implementing the new cityLINK bus service which has two major components to it; the first one is we’re developing all of our fixed route lines in order to make them faster and operating more frequently. In areas with lower ridership, we’re implementing the demand response service so for everybody that used Lethbridge Transit, come Aug. 25 their trip will be changing,” he said.

“We understand it’s a difficult time and everybody’s travel’s going to be changing so we want to try to be as accessible as possible,” he said.

“This has been a huge undertaking for Lethbridge Transit. Really it started with the basics of the Transit Master Plan which was done in 2017 and a lot of the work was built upon that. In fall of last year, council directed us to implement a demand response system, basically using transit on demand in some form or fashion.

“We worked to develop cityLink at that point in time.”

Sanderson said routes are all affected.

“Every route that currently exists is changing. So it’s changing in some form or fashion.”

Sanderson said routes aren’t necessarily being discontinued but rather “cityLINK is a process of restructuring.

“We had an existing network, we’ve created a new network. What matters is does the bus go by and how often does it go by? So all of our routes have changed.”

Some ares will get a different type of service or less frequent service.

“There’s a number of areas, the ones our data show, not just have the highest ridership in our current system but the highest ridership potential –  they’re going to see an improvement of service, an improvement of frequency,” Sanderson said.

“What we attempted to do was to concentrate our service on the major corridors where most of the density is but again for some people they are going to have a bit of a longer walk. For other people, they have a shorter walk. It all depends on where they live,” Sanderson said.

“Our goal was to provide the highest level of transit service to the most amount of citizens in Lethbridge. So the greatest number of citizens get the highest level of service.”

“So I’ve got a bus stop a hundred yards from your house but guess what, the bus only runs in one direction and takes you an hour and 15 minutes to get from one side of the city to the other. The utility of that isn’t there. Instead we’ve created a network that allows you to get from the Superstore on the Southside to the university in 30 minutes, a trip that today takes an hour and 15 minutes. So that’s really what we concentrated on.

“The vast majority of trips that we’ve planned have saved an inordinate amount of time for all customers. It’s a reduction of service, though, of $350,000 so there are people that are going to be adversely affected. The one thing we’ve seen through our trip planning is that number is smaller than we expected at this point.”

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