Southland taking over On-it service
Foothills: Transit system to be continued privately
Wednesday, Feb 14, 2018 11:28 am
Despite the Calgary Regional Partnership’s decision to cancel it, there will still be a way for Foothills residents to get On-it.
As of Feb. 28, Southland Transportation will be taking over the On-it transit from the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) to continue commuter transportation services.
“We’re going to continue to provide service to the On-it customers,” said Jonathan Weal, regional director for Southland Transportation. “We also have taken ownership of the trademark brand and name of On-it, so all of our commuter buses from Okotoks and Cochrane will be rebranded as On-it.”
Southland has been running commuter buses from Okotoks and Cochrane into downtown Calgary since 1994. Weal said this gave the company the upper hand in winning the bid to provide On-it buses and drivers when the CRP launched the service in 2015. After the CRP announced it would be cancelling its On-it program, the decision to take over the service was a no-brainer for Southland, he said.
“It’s a shame it ended, but we’re very honoured to carry on the vision of the Calgary Regional Partnership,” said Weal. “The CRP was incredibly visionary in what it decided to do.”
Taking over On-it will see a blending of the two commuter services into a single system, said Weal.
It will likely include buses travelling from Okotoks to downtown Calgary, as well as some that will continue to stop at the Somerset-Bridlewood C-Train station for those who wish to use Calgary transit, he said.
Under the umbrella of Southland Transportation, he said there will be no cost to municipalities for the On-it transit system. It will be run as a private enterprise, just as the company’s commuter buses have operated for the past 23 years.
Currently, a monthly pass for the commuter service costs about $260 per month to travel from Okotoks to downtown Calgary.
Weal said fares will be reviewed according to services offered – a commuter going downtown would pay more than someone being dropped off at the south C-Train station.
People will still be able to purchase a ticket for same-day travel, similar to the On-it system, to go either direction, he said.
Schedules and stop locations will be reviewed based on passenger feedback in the coming weeks, he said. Southland will also be working with the Town of Okotoks as it plans for an on-demand internal transit system, to ensure people can catch a bus from their home to connect with the commuter bus, he said.
In addition, Weal said Southland would like to look at expanding the service into Black Diamond, Turner Valley, Chestermere and Strathmore.
The company would also like to offer more options for its ridership, he said.
“We certainly feel there’s a need for the people of Okotoks and surrounding towns,” he said. “There’s no direct passenger link, no transit link between Okotoks and South Health Campus, which seems crazy to me.”
He said Southland intends to look into the possibility of offering buses to travel to the hospital from Okotoks, or even to make stops at Chinook Centre or Southcentre malls to allow people to shop for a day.
“We’re open to any suggestions,” said Weal. “We want to know what the people of Okotoks, High River and Black Diamond and Turner Valley, what do they want?”
Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson, who was the chair of the CRP, said he’s pleased to see Southland Transportation take over the On-it brand.
“I took a certain pride being on the CRP executive on that On-it brand,” said Robertson. “With the rise of the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board and the demise of the CRP, carrying on the On-it brand will allow the legacy of the CRP to live on.”
Even more than leaving a legacy, he said continuing with the program will provide much-needed public transit to people in the Foothills region that is more extensive than what existed with only commuter buses in place.
“People, perhaps in a few short years, will be able to get from Calgary to Cochrane, to Airdrie, to Strathmore and so on, on the On-it system, which was the intent of this,” said Robertson. “Certainly, I wanted the pilot to continue until Oct. 5, the end of the On-it pilot project. This is about six months early, but so be it.
“At least it’s going to continue on in some fashion and there will be opportunities for public transit for our residents who want that.”