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Morinville community bus hits the road again

Six-month pilot starts this April
PILOT PROJECT — Morinville town council approved a six-month pilot project for the town’s community bus Jan. 24, 2023. The pilot will let seniors ride the bus to out-of-town destinations for about $9.60 per person. TOWN OF MORINVILLE/Photo

Morinville seniors will get to ride to St. Albert and Edmonton for about $10 starting this April as part of a new community bus pilot project.

Morinville council approved a community bus pilot project Jan. 24, having debated the project’s merits during committee of the whole on Jan. 17.

Morinville has run a community bus since 1990 to support park-and-rides at events and out-of-town excursions. The bus has been parked since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic due to pandemic-related health restrictions and a loss of provincial funding for it.

Town administration proposed selling the bus in February 2022 to save money. Council told administration to instead come up with a new funding model for it.

At the Jan. 17 committee of the whole meeting, town community recreation co-ordinator Barb Adamson proposed a six-month pilot project for the community bus targeted at seniors, who were the most frequent users of the bus.

Under it, groups of at least 13 seniors could ride the bus for social, educational, and service access trips outside of Morinville for about $9.60 a person, with trips planned by administration in partnership with the Morinville Rendez-Vous Centre (the town’s main senior’s group). The town had budgeted $1,750 to cover half the transportation cost of these trips. Groups could also book the bus at full cost. The pilot would run between this April 3 and Sept. 30, and would aim to offer 14 excursions and 12 group bookings.

Coun. Rebecca Balanko asked why the pilot excluded in-town service, as the Morinville Rendez-Vous Centre (the town’s main senior’s group) had said they needed in-town transportation more than out-of-town. She also said the pilot might see less demand as it was happening in the summer.

Sharleen Edwards, the town’s acting general manager of community and infrastructure services, said administration chose to restrict the pilot to out-of-town excursions and to run it during the summer so it would qualify for an $11,066 New Horizons Seniors Program grant from the federal government.

Adamson said the pilot would proceed even if the town did not receive that grant.

Coun. Scott Richardson voiced concerns about trips being cancelled due to the 13-passenger requirement. Balanko suggested town have a “sponsor a rider” program to ensure people who couldn’t afford the trip fee could still take the bus.

Reached for comment Jan. 25, Morinville Rendez-Vous Centre vice-president Gary Pool said he thought this pilot project was a good move and hoped to work with the town on the details. While he would have liked the pilot to have included in-town service, he said groups such as the Morinville Minstrels choir would definitely be able to make use of the bus.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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