June 16th, 2024

CultureLINK service attracted mainly local users: report

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on February 23, 2023.

Herald File photo The CultureLINK bus service pilot program offered free transportation between tourist attractions in the city last summer.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

A report presented to the Cultural and Social Standing Policy Committee of Lethbridge city council recently shows the majority of users of the pilot CultureLINK bus service last summer were local residents.

The report was presented by Darrin Martens, CEO and executive director of the Galt Museum and Archives.

The project offered free transportation between six tourist attractions in the city from June until September.

Those attractions included the Galt Museum, Casa, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery Nikka Yuko Japaneses Gardens, as well as Fort Whoop-Up and Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Indian Battle Park.

In addition to being local, the majority of bus users were current transit subscribers, said the report.

3,561 riders utilized the service.

Total cost of the project was $158,031.44, nearly $6,000 below the budget. Costs included bus stop construction, 5,000 color brochures, an exterior bus wrap that cost $10,000 as well as interior bus signs.

Martens’ report says ridership was mainly between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and that the CultureLINK branded bus was “easily recognizable and effective in drawing in passengers as opposed to traditional Lethbridge Transit vehicles.” Ridership peaked in August with 1,665 riders. July had ridership of 1,430 while June’s was 345 and September’s. In each of June and September, the service was only available for four days.

Because of maintenance issues, the actual CultureLINK bus was used only 25 to 33 per cent of the time.

The report says ridership was lower than traditional city transit routes which was expected.

Helen Schuler centre and Nikka Yuko garden were the primarily destinations for riders.

Interactions with Tourism Lethbridge ambassadors on the bus showed users included 138 visitors, 299 locals seeing attractions or looking for information and 154 regular transit users.

Destinations of visitors included 55 unknown, 29 from Alberta, 14 from B.C.,12 from Quebec, nine from Ontario and six out of country.

In terms of customers per revenue hour, the CultureLINK route had 3.51 compared to 14.15 for Route 52, the busiest in Lethbridge. The next lowest to CultureLINK was Route 62 with 5.75.

The report contains several potential options for city council to consider moving forward.

One, which is administration’s recommendation, is that council request the Galt’s board of directors to bring forward options and costs associated with the development of a funicular between the museum and Fort Whoop-Up to a Cultural and Social SPC meeting by the end of the fourth quarter. A funicular is a cable-bound railway used for steep included slopes, utilizing a wider railway system that enables them to travel two to three kilometers in length, according to a river accessibility study done by Outdoor Engineers for the City several years ago.

A second option is to have council direct Transit to provide options and costs associated with expansion of service to include the river valley and a third option is to have the Galt board explore regional collaboration working with Tourism Lethbridge on a co-ordinated initiative to increase visitation and enhance economic opportunities and revenue diversification for the region.

A fourth option is to stay with the status quo.

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