Aldermen cut ACCESS transit service to Calgary by end of year
By: Matt Durnan
| Posted: Thursday, Apr 24, 2014 06:00 am
Airdrie City council voted to eliminate the City’s ACCESS shuttle service to Calgary and investigate new service models within Airdrie.
ACCESS is a transportation alternative for Airdrie residents who are unable to use regular transit. The system’s ridership is made up mainly of seniors and those with medical conditions. The ACCESS Airdrie system operates Monday to Friday and ACCESS Calgary runs only on Tuesdays.
The ACCESS Calgary system has not been a favorable one according to Transit Coordinator Chris MacIsaac, who explained to council that the limited scope of the service has made it unproductive from a cost standpoint.
“Our ICE (Intercity Express) busses actually make us $1.06 per customer and local transit costs the City $19.42 per customer,” said MacIsaac. “By comparison, ACCESS Airdrie costs us $23.60 and ACCESS Calgary costs $57.84 per customer. As you can see the costs with ACCESS Calgary are very high and because we don’t set limitations these busses can be going as far as the south end of Calgary.”
MacIsaac made note that 50 per cent of ACCESS Calgary users are utilizing the transit system to get to services in Calgary that are available in Airdrie.
Residents who use the ACCESS system must complete an application form that is signed by a healthcare professional, and ACCESS Calgary use is strictly available for medical appointments, skill development/training and for eligible clients to visit family and loved ones in hospitals and extended care facilities in Calgary.
The ACCESS system currently has a ridership of 53 people and in the past two weeks has had a mere five riders use ACCESS Calgary.
Mayor Peter Brown made note that low ridership numbers could be attributed to the very limited scope of the service to Calgary.
“A lot of the time these people are going to Calgary to see a specialist and it’s not a guarantee that they can schedule their appointments on a Tuesday when the bus runs,” said Brown. “We have just under 300 people in Airdrie that are eligible for this service and I’m sure if the service level was different we would have more riders.”
The City’s service agreement with ACCESS transit provider First Student Canada ends on Sept. 30 this year, but service will continue through until the end of the year.
Alderman Allan Hunter asked about alternative methods while stating that he wasn’t against the money spent for the program.
“When it comes to our residents who have mobility issues I wouldn’t feel good about abandoning them,” said Hunter. “I don’t have a problem spending the money when it comes to something like this.”
Alderman Candice Kolson wasn’t exactly on side with Hunter’s stance, and suggested scaling back the service by perhaps imposing stricter guidelines for trips to Calgary.
“When I see that 50 per cent of the trips to Calgary are for services that are available here in Airdrie, that kind of seems like it’s almost an abuse of this service,” said Kolson.
Alderman Darrell Belyk talked about alternative measures, making note that this wasn’t a case of stranding ACCESS clients.
“We’ll find an alternative, we’re not just going to be stranding people,” said Belyk. “We will work with our ACCESS clients to arrange ways for them to get to and from Calgary.”
The ACCESS Calgary transit system will remain in place through 2014 before being eliminated at the end of the year, while alternative methods for ACCESS Airdrie will be looked into by MacIsaac and staff.
“We’ll need to put an RFP together and look at maybe having multiple service providers for the system,” said MacIsaac. “The service will go out to contract and whether it’s buses or taxis operating under the Airdrie Transit logo, they will be on the road by Oct. 1.”