Transit service from Airdrie to CrossIron Mills mall approved by council
Airdrie Transit users will have access to service to CrossIron Mills mall when the City’s Intercity Express (ICE) expands its services to the shopping centre starting in December.
The new route will be an eight-month pilot project that was approved by City council, Sept. 3.
The City’s transit coordinator Chris MacIsaac, told council the buses will run on weekends and statutory holidays on an hourly basis, on a constant loop that will get Airdrie residents to CrossIron Mills in approximately half an hour.
The proposed transit route was voted down by council in a 4-3 vote on May 21 but it was brought forward again by the Hyjinx Youth Group at a June 17 council meeting when aldermen voted in favour of revisiting the proposal.
With more than three months since the resolution was first defeated, MacIsaac and members of the transit committee ironed out an array of possible snags and concerns identified by council.
Issues brought forward included the depreciation of the buses and revenue sharing with CrossIron Mills mall owners Ivanhoe Cambridge.
“The buses are an asset owned by the City of Airdrie that were purchased by the City through grant dollars from provincial and federal governments,” said MacIsaac. “They do have a lifecycle and staff appreciates that those assets will have to be replaced over time and that there is a cost to have those units on the road.”
The depreciation of the buses is a straight-line model used by the City’s finance department to calculate the depreciation of assets.
The cost of the asset is divided by its lifetime to determine annual depreciation and then divided once more on a 365 day calendar to determine daily depreciation, which in this case the depreciation amounts to $57.10.
Revenue from the transit service will be split down the middle, with 50 per cent going to the mall, and 50 per cent coming back in to the City’s revenue stream to subsidize other transit services.
Another concern raised prior to the Sept. 3 decision was that transit to CrossIron Mills mall would drive consumers out of the city and take away from local businesses.
An online survey was distributed to 1,500 local businesses, both home-based and commercial storefront. Response was minimal, with just 6.5 per cent (97 responses) over the one month period that the survey was open. Among those responded, approximately 60 per cent said they were aware that the service was being considered by council, 70 per cent said that they were in favour.
“It was a bit of a revelation that 70 per cent said they (were in favour),” said MacIsaac. “Approximately 17 per cent said they were not in favour so there is certainly a number of businesses in this community who feel this service would have an impact on the business they do on a day-to-day basis.”
Deputy Mayor Allan Hunter was disappointed by the low number of responses but spoke in favour of the new transit service.
“Things must be pretty good out there if they (business owners) aren’t worried about the dollars to that extent,” said Hunter.
Mayor Peter Brown revisited the suggestions he brought forward in June with regards to looking at expanding the service beyond CrossIron Mills mall in order to establish a higher level of connectivity with Calgary.
“We’re so close to getting to the LRT loop, we’ve already convinced Calgary to let us pick up their residents at the LRT with our ICE buses, if that route can extend into the northeast of Calgary and loop back around, we’re talking about total connectivity,” said Brown.
“Once the plug is in there, I think we’ll see our local transit increase significantly and I really believe that people will come back and experience our own community because of that connectivity.”
CrossIron Mills mall employees will still be able to ride the buses for $2 in each direction, while customers travelling to the mall will be charged $5 per ride.
Alderman Murray Buchanan was the only alderman who voted against the resolution.
Buchanan was not convinced the service would generate enough revenue to offset the cost of bus depreciation, which he calculated at approximately $4,400 over eight months.
MacIsaac noted the move is a calculated risk but he believes the service will be successful.
“You can take the fixed amount that you know will come in over that eight-month period, or we grow the service with CrossIron Mills mall, leveraging their marketing expertise to put people on the bus and bring in substantially more revenues than $4,400,” said MacIsaac.
Council agreed to implement the pilot program starting this December with a friendly amendment added by Brown to look into expanding the service into northeast of Calgary to connect with the LRT line.