The St. Albert Handibus will expand its Edmonton route to 18 stops from 16 by mid-2018.
New locations are determined by city staff and the Handibus Advisory Committee, which includes residents and specialized transit experts, based on demand from residents who use the bus.
Councillors unanimously supported the decision.
Coun. Sheena Hughes, who brought forward the motion, initially asked for a minimum of three stops to be added to the Edmonton route but dialed that back after city staff expressed concerns about budget constraints.
City manager Kevin Scoble said the feasibility of three additional stops would be a challenge to implement by mid-2018 considering the current resources allocated to the Handibus but deferred the question to transit director Kevin Bamber, who said two more stops could be added instead.
“We’re going to be looking at continuous improvement throughout (2018) to see if we can do even better,” Scoble added.
Hughes said she wants the route to provide service to as many people as possible.
“What I want to do is maximize our service level for the amount of money we’re putting into it right now, and maximize the ability for people to use this service,” she said.
“Sixteen stops (was) perhaps a way to get started but certainly is not, to me, sufficient for what we’re trying to accomplish,” Hughes said.
Coun. Wes Brodhead described the motion as a positive move, although he questioned why the city would not have already added two stops if it had the capacity to do so.
“Having said that, I recognize that sometimes to put pressure on the system, a motion by a political body is required,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to serving more people in the community.”
Although the new stops have not yet been identified, one potential stop near the top of the city’s priority list is Central Lions Seniors Association on 111 Avenue and 113 Street. The bus already stops at a few locations along 111 Avenue and Hughes expressed hope Central Lions Seniors Association could be added without requiring extensive detours.
The association runs a twice-weekly program for people with dementia, which is the only help for St. Albert residents like Leah Fisher, whose husband suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
Fisher came to council on Dec. 4 to ask for the association to be added to the list of Handibus stops. She said that addition would give her an extra two hours of respite each time her husband attends the program, which she currently drives him to.
“I think this is an easy win for our new city council. You have the buses, the buses have room, and you have the drivers – everything is in place except just a new route,” she said.
Bamber said the transit department has received five requests for Central Lions Seniors Association to be added to the list, which puts it second on the priority list of stops to add to the bus route.