Airdrie Transit to expand weekend service into Calgary
By: Matt Durnan
| Posted: Thursday, Jun 19, 2014 10:18 am
Airdrie Transit’s weekend service to CrossIron Mills mall in Balzac will now provide service to northeast Calgary, after council voted in favour of expanding the service during a council meeting on June 16.
In September 2013 council approved an eight-month pilot program for weekend transit service to CrossIron Mills mall, while directing staff to explore options for expansion into northeast Calgary.
Airdrie Transit Team Leader Chris MacIsaac presented options to council on June 16, for the expansion, recommending they eliminate the current loop within Airdrie, only picking up riders at the Co-op on Main Street.
“The intent is that we will eventually move this service to the new transit terminal that is being built on Main Street south (near the Honda dealership),” said MacIsaac.
The buses will now operate on a 75-minute schedule, as opposed to every 60-minutes, to account for additional travel time to and from Calgary’s McKnight-Westwinds LRT station.
“We’ve tested this route three different times, at different times of the day and in different weather conditions and 75 minutes is about the average time for the trip,” said MacIsaac.
Alderman Candice Kolson inquired whether or not there was communication with Calgary Transit and if they had shown interest in providing their own loop service to CrossIron Mills mall.
MacIsaac responded, “Calgary’s system is more focused on providing service within their own municipal boundaries.”
The pilot program to CrossIron Mills mall from Airdrie was slow to get started when it was implemented last November, according to MacIsaac, though service has picked up since the new year.
More than 2,100 riders took the weekend service over the past seven months since the pilot has been operational, with May seeing the most riders at 433.
“Our ridership has grown by 70 per cent since January,” said MacIsaac.
Alderman Allan Hunter wasn’t in favour of the proposed route expansion, citing an imbalance in the fee structure.
“I love the concept of regional connectivity and cooperation but I can’t get my head around what this partnership with Calgary Transit means,” said Hunter.
“We’re going to CrossIron Mills and to Calgary and because Calgary Transit doesn’t want to support service outside of their boundaries. I’m struggling with a whole bunch of people getting a really good deal by using our capital assets to get out of Calgary.”
Hunter pushed for the transit team to explore a fare integration model that would see fares for Calgary Transit and Airdrie Transit have the same structure.
Alderman Kelly Hegg commented that this service should be looked at from an Airdrie standpoint.
“This isn’t about Calgary, regardless of our partnership,” said Hegg. “This is about providing a service to Airdrie residents. This not only adds a level of connectivity for our residents but we can have people coming here to visit their families and shop in our stores.”
The operational costs for this expansion will continue to be covered by CrossIron Mills mall owners Ivanhoe-Cambridge and revenues will be spilt 50/50. Over the seven months the pilot service to the mall has been in operation, the City has seen $4,000 in revenue, 50 per cent of the $8,000 total.
MacIsaac projects that the increase in ridership with Calgary users coming on board will offset bus depreciation costs over time.
Fee structure for the service will be explored by transit staff before it is implemented on July 5. (See story on local transit fee changes on page 4). Currently the fare to ride to CrossIron Mills from Airdrie and vice versa is $5 each way.
“So we would look at one amount to ride to CrossIron Mills and then another to ride to Calgary so you would state where you’re going when you get on the bus and your ticket would indicate that,” said MacIsaac.
The route isn’t the only thing being changed, as the bus will no longer be named the number four, and will now take on a number in the 900’s to align with the call number of Airdrie’s ICE buses. This is in order to reduce any confusion for people calling 311 to find service times of the bus from Calgary to CrossIron Mills, as Calgary Transit already has a number four bus.
Mayor Peter Brown spoke in favour of the proposed service expansion and regional connectivity.
“Not only will this create more connectivity, it will promote local ridership as well,” said Brown. “We have seniors in our community who now have an option to go visit family in Calgary, and the other way around.”
Alderman Hunter was the lone vote in opposition. The weekend transit service to CrossIron Mills will expand to Calgary as of July 5, just in time for the first weekend of the Calgary Stampede.
For information on route times and fares, visit www.airdrie.ca/transit