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Last updateTue, 28 May 2024 4pm

Town assess feasibility of public transit


    Drumheller Town Council is gauging the future of public transportation in the valley, and if it is time to expand the service.
    Council has a final draft of The Town of Drumheller Transit Feasibility Study prepared by iTrans. Its goal is to assess the current services provided by the Valley Bus Society, and the opportunity to introduce fixed route services. It examines the proposal in context of what other similar sized municipalities are able to offer.
     The report says the reason for the study is as the demographics of the town change, and quality of life issues surface, more demands will be put on the Valley Bus Society, and indirectly on elected officials. The study is now needed to address long term solutions and a short term plan to achieve these solutions.
    Currently the Valley Bus Society has an established criteria for those it serves, which includes those who are not able to drive, and those over 50 who are able to drive, but do not have access to an automobile. The bulk of its service is dial-a-bus fares followed by contracted services and charters. In 2008, it cost about $200,000 to operate the service with about 70 per cent of the funding going to labour. The Town of Drumheller supported the Valley Bus Society with about $50,000, plus in kind services valuing approximately $20,000. The rest of its funding came from service delivery, donations and fundraising, and advertising revenue.
    Councillor Andrew Berdahl says it is time to decide whether the Valley Bus Society should expand its services, or to shrink back to its original mandate.
    The recommendations include introducing a community bus route to the urban areas of Drumheller including Nacmine and Midland on alternate trips, as a service to all residents, operating during business hours.
    It also recommends introducing a fixed route taxi service to serve the outlying communities from East Coulee to Drumheller. This would be a shared ride taxi service, typically a van, that would follow a fixed route and schedule, and stop only at designated points.
    The report also recommends a taxi scrip program be assessed. This would provide eligible Valley Bus customers service during non Valley Bus hours of operation, and would subsidize fares. They would also have one wheelchair accessible vehicle dedicated to the demand responsive Valley Bus door-to-door service. Charter services such as out of town medical trips would continue to operate, at a cost not subsidized directly by the taxpayer.
    The report recommends the governance model of the Valley Bus Society be divided into two. The Community Bus side would include accessible bus service, the fixed route shared taxi service and the possibility of tourism-focused transportation. The Specialized Transit side would offer specialized services, taxi scrip service and charter.
    To achieve this, the study recommends Drumheller purchase a 25 seated passenger bus, provide funding for a taxi service to retrofit vehicle(s) to accommodate one wheel chair passenger for trips that cannot be accommodated by regular Valley Bus service, purchase dispatching software and install bus stops.
    Berdahl says according to the models it appears the existing service can be maintained, while adding much more public services without a significant increase of cost.
    Offering public service could open up more revenue streams to support the service in the form of grants. The spin off of operating tourist-centred services could also provide a new revenue stream.
    Berdahl said the Valley Bus Society and council have been examining the issues addressed by the report for a number of years, but would like to see it addressed by council in the near future.

Parking Task Force miffed with iTrans’ comments

    The Downtown Parking Task Force was surprised by comments iTrans made on the recommendations the Task Force had put forward to Council.
    In a letter sent to the Task Force, Jay Magus, from iTrans, the company consulted during the Task Force downtown parking review process, commented on some of the recommendations.
     “Several points in this letter seem to be a complete reversal of what was discussed during the consultation meetings,” said Task Force member, John Shoff to The Mail.
    The iTrans letter came following last week’s council meeting when Ray Romanetz, town CAO, told Council that iTrans’ Jay Magus had advised him that some of the information the Task Force had supplied was incomplete and/or incorrect.
    In particular, there was an inaccuracy in the measurements relating to the width increase gained by creating a more acute angle in the parking stalls.
    In his response to iTrans, John Shoff, addressed several points iTrans had reviewed.
    In particular, iTrans letter said “split phasing of the lights [located at the 3rd Avenue, Highway 9 junction] or having only westbound moves permitted while holding all other movement, is not recommended as it provides a poor Level-of-Service and increases queue lengths.”
    In response, John Shoff explained the only increase in queueing time would be for eastbound traffic and the task force had agreed this was an acceptable loss.
    In their letter, iTrans also  appears to recommend changing the phasing of the North and South-bound traffic lights, something the Task Force was keen to avoid so as to comply with Alberta Transportation’s requirement that the Highway 9 traffic should not be affected by any changes made to the lights.
    Regarding the inaccuracy iTrans highlighted of the increased road width gained by changing the angle of the parking stalls, Shoff asked iTrans why their comments did not mention the increased visibility and safety this would provide.
    Another point iTrans made in their letter was that, in their opinion, a gap study at the 2nd Avenue/Highway 9 intersection would show there was sufficient gaps for traffic to enter or cross the highway from the westbound traffic.
    This statement had Shoff puzzled.
    “This is a complete reversal of the discussions had during the task force meetings.
    Both yourself, and Tony Chelick from AB Transportation cited the closure was primarily due to the lack of a gap in traffic and that a gap study would show this to be not enough timing to safely enter the highway.
    Now you write that the gap is sufficient, and I am very confused as to why you have reversed your opinion on this issue? I would appreciate an explanation,” wrote Shoff in response.
    iTrans is arranging a meeting with the Task Force to clarify its position.
    A motion is on the floor at Council to delay the implementation of parallel parking for one year.
    During Council meeting on Monday, April 26, it was decided to defer the motion until such time as the Parking Task Force reviews the comments from iTrans and presents their findings back to Council.
    Despite leaving several messages, The Mail was unable to speak to Jay Magus of iTrans for his comments.

Drumheller reminded of its Naval history

    As part of their centennial celebrations, The Royal Canadian Navy visited Drumheller on Monday, April 26 and presented the Town of Drumheller with a plaque depicting the history of HMCS Drumheller at Town Council. 
    During his presentation, Commander Ron Pumphrey, Commanding Officer at HMCS Calgary, based at Esquimalt, British Columbia, explained they were touring to pay tribute to the towns and to talk and pay respect to veterans.
    Cmdr. Pumphrey said the corvette HMCS Drumheller played an important role in the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II.
    “When people think of Drumheller, they think the museum, the dinosaurs, at least my son does! But I think more towards the Navy, and I am quite proud about what you have done and the support given, I don’t know if you realize but the town actually used to send care packages and parcels to people from this ship during World War II as well so it is an interesting history that is here.”
    In September 1943, the  ship, under the command of Tony Storrs, was deployed to protect convoys at a critical stage of the Battle of the Atlantic and was subjected to repeated U-boat attacks.
    For this service Storrs was awarded the Legion d’Honneur and the Croix de Guerre avec palmes.
    Cmdr. Pumphrey talked about the significant role the Royal Canadian Navy plays in providing security for the sea trade, as Canada is surrounded by three oceans, Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic, explaining the prices of goods in grocery stores would be much higher without the Canadian Navy.
    “I have been to quite a few places around the world, and I will tell you Canada is the best part of the world to be, and I can say that without question,” he concluded, adding “I’d like to give my own personal guarantee from all the sailors, right from our highest Admiral down, that we will continue to do what we can to protect those sea lines, to protect your interests that are out there.”
    During his presentation to council, Cmdr. Pumphrey was joined by Cmdr. Sylvain Belby, Executive Officer, HMCS Calgary, Lt. Cmdr. (ret’d) Doug Bourne, from HMCS Tecumesh, Calgary, Ltn. Cory Titsing, Area Cadet Officer, Lt. John Ibbotson, Commanding Officer of the RCSCC Furious, and members of the Drumheller Sea Cadets.


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