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City cuts the ribbon on Cold Lake Transit, discusses building new transfer station

The buses in the long-awaited transit system are finally rolling through Cold Lake. After months of planning and anticipation, the first passengers boarded the buses on the morning of Aug. 26. “I'm very excited, it was a big team project.
City of Cold Lake officials, along with the new transit drivers, held a ceremonial ribbon cutting on Aug. 25 to officially kick-off the start of the city’s new public
City of Cold Lake officials, along with the new transit drivers, held a ceremonial ribbon cutting on Aug. 25 to officially kick-off the start of the city’s new public transit system, which was up and running for passangers the following morning.

The buses in the long-awaited transit system are finally rolling through Cold Lake. After months of planning and anticipation, the first passengers boarded the buses on the morning of Aug. 26.

“I'm very excited, it was a big team project. Council gave us the budget decision in December of last year and in eight months we're ready to launch the transit service,” said Azam Khan, general manager of infrastructure services. “There were moments of frustration but it's a day to celebrate and enjoy, we have a new icon on the streets.”

Since the announcement that Cold Lake will be getting a new transit system, residents have been anxiously watching the details unfold. On the first day running, there was a total of 444 riders – 198 on the north route and 246 in the south, with the peak time being between noon and 1 p.m.

This isn't the first time the city has taken a stab at having public buses running. After previously being unsuccessful, Mayor Craig Copeland said they've learned a lot and are confident this time around will be a success.

“The route is much simpler than before and we have a total commitment from council that this is the route we're going to stick with. It's only because we have a lot more money to play with…if it wasn't for ID 349 there would be no way we'd be doing transit.”

Khan added, “It's a scaled down version, people that want that want to remain in the north will remain in the north and people that want to remain in the south will stay in the south, with one transfer point in the middle.”

Now moving on a schedule, Cold Lake Transit will run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For the time being, there will be just two buses running – one completing a circle in the north and one in the south. The two routes meet at a single transfer point at the Tri City Mall.

“This route is not going to get you to your destination faster than a cab, be patient with it and it'll get you to your location anywhere in Cold Lake,” said Copeland. “If (someone has) lots of time and works at 4 Wing, it may take them 40 minutes to get to work but they don't have to start their car. They can hop on a bus, get some work done or maybe read a book.”

Earlier this year city council voted to keep the new transit system free, opting to use the first few months to see the demographic of who takes the bus instead of using it to generate revenue.

“We looked at the single parent that may have three or four kids. We kept it free and they can hop on the bus and go to the Energy Centre or Walmart or wherever and it's not going to cost mom or dad $12 to get on the bus,” explained Copeland.

Along with ID 349, the money saved when purchasing the initial bus fleet is also helping along the finance decisions. Originally slating $215,000 for two buses, the City was able to purchase six from the Calgary Transit Authority at $5,000 a piece, along with needed tires and parts. While they will be looking at whether or not to implement a fee in their upcoming budget deliberations, Copeland noted that transit is not a money making endeavour. For every 10 cents spent, a municipality will get one cent in return on transit. Not a significant income compared to other areas such as the marina or Kinosoo ski hill, which both see a return of seven or eight cents.

“It's going to be heavily subsidized, there's no doubt about it. When you stack transportation versus your recreation in town, it's just that kind of deficit. If Transportation is going to be a deficit item our council is prepared to eat that cost. It's about quality of life – the livability in the city for everybody.”

To lessen the blow that transit will have on the city's budget, council approved the sale of advertisements on the buses, garnering a positive response thus far from the local business community.

Driving the buses are a third-party company hired by the city, with six drivers rotating through the 16-hour a day, six-days a week schedule.

Overall, Copeland said they're pleased with the new transit system and what they're able to offer residents, noting that is another step forward in Cold Lake's continued growth.

“We're becoming a city, we call ourselves a city and this is one way of showing we're a city – by having transit.”

Construction of transit transfer station

Furthering their master plans for Cold Lake Transit, during their meeting last Tuesday (Aug. 25) city council voted in favour of constructing a transit shelter at the transfer point in the route.

“This will be the major transfer station in front of the Tri City Mall, we don't feel safe just having the transfer on the road,” CAO Kevin Nagoya told council. “We've already designed the physical bus shelter, (the transfer point is) quite a bit away from the mall so we need an actual shelter.”

Being as there's not a lot of shoulder room for buses to pull off, the proposed design further expands the east shoulder around the Tim Horton's area. The design includes a raised concrete platform for patrons to wait on, a sheltered area and an accessibility ramp.

The price of the transit transfer station comes in at $400,000, with the majority of the cost coming from the necessary road-widening. The money for the project will be funded from the ID 349 Municipal Sustainability Initiative.

Nagoya said by using this location as a transfer point it allows for the possibility of expanding the bus route in the future, something they're hoping for if public transit is successful.

“We feel as a hub location, this would be a great spot if you were to add a third bus route to, say, Kinosoo ski hill.”

Copeland added that there are a few other bus shelters on order and benches on the way, but they won't be going at every stop in the city.

“I think people get used to a designated route, so if you time it right you won't be standing very long. The idea is to put benches and to build it as comfortable as we can in some of the stops.”

For more information on Cold Lake Transit, or for the full schedule, visit http://www.coldlake.com/content/cold-lake-transit.




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