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Rural Transportation News. Alberta 2018. No. 2: Addressing the Challenge

We began our series with a look at the socio-cultural and infrastructure changes that have led to diminishing transportation services in rural Alberta. 
This week we review the key points presented at  province-wide 
Rural Transportation Information Day II - 2017, held last September 23 
at the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta.

Rural Transportation in Alberta

By Cathie Barlett*, Editor
Not too long ago, Camrose residents without a vehicle had little in the way of transportation. The same went for people along the Banff-Canmore corridor. Not so nowadays; bus service is available to take residents and visitors around, proof that public transportation can work in the province's smaller centers and rural areas.
Max Lindstrand from Camrose City Council described the introduction of public transit to Camrose. Following a survey identifying those in need, including seniors, low-income residents, persons with disabilities and university students, the city brought in a taxi token program to get low-income residents around. A bus, first brought in for seniors, is now a community bus and is experiencing increasing ridership, with fares cut in half to $2 per trip and service provided four days a week with seven trips around the city. The Rose City Handivan Society runs the service, funded by the city, along with a handivan bus.
Canmore-Banff Regional Transit (ROAM) started in 2012 and includes four routes with future plans calling for increased frequency on Banff local routes and proposed service from Banff to Lake Louise. General manager Martin Bean cited municipal collaboration and cooperation along with marketing and business partnerships as keys to success.
And there are other good things happening on the transportation front for ruralAlberta. Participants at Rural Transportation Information Day II - 2017 gathering heard from Paul Siller, executive-director of  Rocky View Regional Handibus Society, how the society has grown in scope and size over the last 30 or so years to serve nearly 1,000 people amongst six cooperating municipalities. This regional approach saves money while transporting seniors with disabilities, people with low income and others in the community who face transportation barriers, as well as taking handicapped youngsters to school.
Ranjit Tharmalingam, Assistant Deputy Minister of Corporate Services and Information for Alberta Transportation, told the gathering the province is positioned to work with rural stakeholders in support of their vision for safe, affordable and accessible rural transportation.
Collaboration and cooperation were key words throughout the day from government and community representatives alike. The new Alberta Municipal Act, it was pointed out, calls for greater collaboration between municipalities with common boundaries and has municipalities working together to identify common areas for regional collaboration. You can read the Act HERE
Other speakers and topics included: 
  • Community Engagement. Tom Fowler - Alberta Traffic Safety Program 
  • Donna Tona - Education Outreach, Alberta Transportation
  • Bruce Hinkley - Progress in Rural TransportMLA Wetaskiwin-Camrose
  • Earl Graham - District 2, Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties
  • County Insights. Kevin Smook - Reeve, Beaver County
  • Linking Transportation and Housing. Dee Ann Benard - Executive Director, Alberta Rural Development Network
  • Advocacy. Betty Sewall and Kathleen Nakagawa - Fairview and Area Seniors Check-in Line Society
  • Creative Approaches. Paintearth County
  • Doing what it Takes. Betty Marks - Resident of Wild Rose Villa, Camrose
  • Recognizing Transportation Needs. Janet Enns - Association for Life-Wide Living of Alberta (ALL) and Battle River Writing Centre
  • Alternative Approaches to Transporation. Kieran Ryan - Pogo CarShare
  • Services to Reflect what People Need and Say - Dr. Virginia Vandall-Walker, Athabasca University
  • Serving University Students having Transportation NeedsDr. Peter Berg - Chair, Science Department, Augustana
The day began at Wahkohtowin Lodge, Augustana Campus with prayers for rural transportation with Elder John Crier from Maskwacis. Reeve George Glazier of Paintearth County welcomed everyone. After registration there were more welcoming remarks from Dr. Allen Berger, Dean of Augustana, and Dr. Jane Ross, president of ALL.
Conference facilitator Dr. Clark Banack (University of Alberta, Kingman) guided the conference and provided a summary at day's end. In his summary Dr. Banack noted RTID II-2017 raises the dialogue, expectations and will to action from people across Alberta regarding rural transportation.
"Community and regionally-based initiatives are timely and appropriate," Dr. Banack said, adding it is encouraging to know the people of Alberta, working with the provincial government, have come so far.
"Alberta is on the verge of significant breakthroughs involving government, non-government and individual output."  

Looking forward, opportunities abound for rethinking transportation and the design of networks that will serve rural citizens 
across the lifespan and the province. 
Transportation for Everyone
will make it possible for 
Everyone to Get Around.

People in Rural Transportation Team Alberta are committed to changes that contribute to the quality of life for everyone in rural Alberta. We value your feedback and ideas. 

You can contact (780) 672-9315 or other column writers through

Appreciation is extended to contributors, organizations and other stakeholders for their help in moving the Alberta Rural Transportation efforts along, and to the Alberta Weekly Newspaper's Association for helping to circulate this column. 

*Cathie Barlett is Editor for Rural Transporation News. Alberta 2018. She is also an active member of the Battle River Writing Centre and former journalist.