By Gillian Slade on August 10, 2017.
Changes to Medicine Hat’s public transit system could mean much less time on the bus and easier access to key destinations, but it will come with the loss of jobs for some bus drivers, the City revealed Wednesday.
The changes to take effect Sept. 5 will result in a $650,000 reduction in operating costs. Of that amount, 60 per cent relates to reduced personnel, said Howard Snodgrass, general manager community development. Reduced fleet size and maintenance costs accounts for the remaining 40 per cent.
Just how many drivers will lose their jobs, Snodgrass declined to say. Efforts to reduce staff levels through attrition will be made, he said.
Based on the average wage for full-time drivers this could impact up to five drivers.
The News requested comment from CUPE, the union representing transit workers, but there was no response by deadline.
Special Transit will not be affected by the changes.
Buses will no longer all converge on the downtown terminal to transfer to other routes. What that terminal will be used for is yet to be determined, said Snodgrass.
Transit fares will remain the same. Snodgrass said fares were discussed but what Hatters currently pay is comparable to other cities.
To buy one ticket, regardless of age, costs $3.25. A return trip $6.50. You can purchase books of 10 tickets for $29.25. A monthly pass for seniors is $43.75, adults between the ages of 18 and 64 $70.50, post-secondary full-time students $61.00 and youth from age six to 17 pay $38.75. There is also a four-month pass for post secondary students costing $232.00.
The new transit system will include two “core” routes and three “feeder” routes. The colour-coded and numbered routes across the city will intersect at 26 points in total where passengers can transfer to a different route to reach their destination.The plan is for those points to have adequate bus shelters to protect passengers from the weather while making a transfer, said Snodgrass.
Buses will now travel in both directions on every route so passengers can choose which direction they want to travel and then decide which side of the road to wait for a bus to accommodate that. Passengers can also depend on a bus every 30 minutes. There will be two buses for each route.
The current loop system meant buses only travel in one direction on the route. For example, someone may first have to travel in the opposite direction of where they want to go and go the full loop to reach their destination.
Under the current system the frequency of buses is every 30 to 60 minutes, and it will be 30 minutes under the new system.
Under the new system, someone living in Ross Glen will be on the orange route. On Dunmore Road they can transfer to the blue route that goes through town and then the Flats. There is also the option of switching to the red route on Dunmore Road to go downtown and then on to Crescent Height as far as Northlands.
Only the two core routes (red and the blue ones) will operate from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and on Saturdays and Sundays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. No service on public holidays.
The blue route goes to Medicine Hat Regional Hospital, downtown, the Medicine Hat Mall and Medicine Hat College. The red route goes from Southlands shopping area to the Family Leisure Centre via downtown.
The three other routes are linked to the red and blue routes but will only operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. There is no weekend service. Using the Ross Glen example, someone near Carry Drive would have to walk to Dunmore Road on the weekend to take a bus on the red and/or blue routes.
The city estimates people across the city will be within 400 to 800 metres of a bus stop.
The green route goes out toward the airport, downtown, the hospital and into a small part of Crescent Heights. The purple route covers downtown, the northeast of Crescent Heights and along Third Street in Riverside. The orange route goes to Southridge through Ross Glen and to Medicine Hat College.
To ensure the public understands the new system there will be a temporary helpline 403-529-8900 and public information sessions:
Aug. 10 — FLC — 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Aug. 16 — FLC — noon to 4 p.m.; Aug. 19 — Co-op mall — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Aug. 23 — hospital — 9 a.m. to noon; Aug. 26 — Medicine Hat Mall — 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Aug. 29 — Co-op mall — 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Aug. 30 — hospital — 9 a.m. to noon; Sept. 5 — Esplanade — 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Routes in detail online at: https://www.medicinehat.ca/government/departments/medicine-hat-transit
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