July 23rd, 2024

CityLINK transit network to become permanent

By Lethbridge Herald on April 26, 2022.

Lethbridge city council has voted to make the cityLINK transit network redesign permanent. Herald file photo

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge city council on Tuesday voted by a 7-2 margin to make the cityLINK transit network redesign permanent with quarterly adjustments being made to reflect feedback, changing travel patterns and metric indicators.

The vote was made following a recommendation from the Civic Works Standing Policy Committee.

Councillors Ryan Parker and Rajko Dodic voted against the plan after lengthy debate about the redesign.

Parker had been willing to compromise and support the motion if council had agreed to restore $350,000 in funding to Transit to work with the SPC to fill any gaps in service.

However, after council removed that funding from the main motion to be considered separately, it voted 5-4 in favour of a motion by councillor Jeff Carlson to refer funding to budget deliberations in the fall.

Several members of council expressed concern that there was no explicit purpose given for the use of the $350,000 or a source for it.

But Parker was adamant the money be given to Transit in light of concerns brought to his attention by transit users who have been adversely impacted by cityLINK.

Transit general manager Tim Sanderson said after the vote to make cityLINK permanent that his department feels shackles have been removed because it is now able to go ahead with its work.

“We’re feeling good, not just me but the transit team.”

Sanderson said the transit system has a foundation that it can build on moving forward.

“We didn’t necessarily hear a no on additional funding; we just heard let’s make it part of the budget process,” he said in response to a question if the lack of that $350,000 would impact the service.

“Our marching orders are to put a good proposal for budget so we’re optimistic,” said Sanderson.

“This is actually like taking the shackles off. We’ve actually got a lot of projects underway, we’ve got a lot of capital projects and a lot of improvements for cityLINK that have been in limbo since January since we brought this to the SPC for the first time. And then when it got deferred, at that point in time, we stopped spending money on the system. So this is going to allow us to really provide a lot of improvements. We got a $3 million budget for capital improvements for city hubs and you’re going to start seeing some progress on that in the near future so we’re really excited,” said Sanderson.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen said the time for addressing the $350,000 funding is in budget deliberations.

“It’s not a no to the funding,” the mayor said during debate.

“It’s ‘let’s look into this and make sure it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it…items come to council during budget to make these decisions, to debate these decisions, to add, to amend, to really further dig deep into the requests that are coming forward. I just don’t see a funding source for this. . .I just don’t see that and so it’s not a no to the funding, but let’s put this into our budget deliberations later in the fall,” the mayor said in support of the referral motion.

Councillor Mark Campbell said there were more questions than answers about where the money would specifically go “and we have to figure it out and we have to consider what is the best option.”

In debating his motion calling for the referral of the $350,000 to be addressed in budget deliberations, Carlson said “the proper route is to give our administration direction to go away, get some plans, get some options, some ideas presented at budget.

“I think it’s incumbent on council to do things in a thoughtful and deliberate way, not just flavour of the month and we are about to come into our operating budget where I will be a huge champion for Transit like I’ve always been.”

Parker said there was a consequence to council taking that $350,000 out of Transit last year.

“We heard it loud and clear not only during election time but leading up to election on how frustrated people were” in regards to how transit has impacted them.

“I was actually right against the cityLINK. I was going to vote against it. I said you know what, people are mad and angry but I was told at the SPC that we can probably find a middle ground if we can get this $350,000 into Transit to help fulfill these people who are falling through the cracks,” said Parker.

“I really believe sometimes even if you gave Transit free, I don’t know if anyone’s going to use transit because people want to get from Point A to Point B quick and we’re really good at building roads in this community. So it’s more of a matter of wanting to improve the service” in the community, Parker added.

A report submitted to council shows on-time performance has improved by 26.07 per cent while ridership is up 65.73 per cent.

There is a 28.44 per cent reduction in transfers and in terms of efficiency, there is a 74.25 per cent improvement in customers per revenue hour.

“The established trend has continued to meet or exceed expectations since the initial report. Based on this performance, it is recommended that the cityLINK network become permanent with quarterly adjustments being made to reflect feedback, changing travel patterns and metric indicators,” said the report.

Returning Transit to the pre-cityLINK network system would have cost $352,000 annually in additional service costs and would have also created a $150,000 one-time cost. It’s anticipated such a move would have also cost the City $300,000 per year in revenue, about 10 per cent.

The impact of a move was predicted to decrease efficiency by 30 per cent and ridership by 10 per cent and would cause the layoff of up to 12 demand response operators. It would also have caused the loss of transit service to Hardieville, Southbrook, Sherring Industrial Park and WT Hill Business Park.

The availability of transit in the industrial park is one reason acting mayor Belinda Crowson called for cityLINK to be made permanent. She said cityLINK is the transit system Lethbridge needs.

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