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Rural Transportation News. Alberta 2018. No. 4: Learning from a Conference

Rural Transportation Information Day II-2017

By Tamara Masuku, SCiP* Rural Transportation Intern
How can what is learned at conferences be applied afterward?
Following the success of Rural Transportation Information Day II-2017 on September 23, 2017, we wanted to know if participants found the conference useful beyond the conference itself. From previous experience, we know that hurriedly filling out a questionnaire at the end of a conference is not the best way to find out.

So, we designed a process that gave participants time to think about their experience. Nnenna Achebe and I, both SCiP Rural Transportation Interns, met with members of the rural transportation Team to plan how to conduct follow-up interviews with the conference participants and student volunteers. After our decision to use telephone interviews, we found it can be quite difficult to reach people at their contact numbers. In some instances, people called us back, but in other cases we didn't hear back. Even so, we received plenty of feedback on the impact and benefits the conference has had for many Alberta organizations. 

After completing the calls, we evaluated what people told us. We were pleased to learn the conference has had significant influence in different communities over the past few months. One participant told us that in her community they have drawn extensively on what they learned, to the extent that they learned how to move forward with developing a rural transportation proposal that is now ready for review by their municipal council.
During the phone calls, we used the same set of questions with each person. The first questions were: "What were some of the benefits of the conference for you and your community?" and "What were the best aspects of the conference?" All the responses were positive, at least to some extent. Some valued the conference as a great place for networking. Others said the conference helped them recognize their own skills and gain insights from other communities and organizations for addressing transportation problems in their own areas. This exposure to other rural transportation groups, and meeting significantly influential people (such as municipal members and government officials) indicates for them that Albertans are working together to solve the transportation issues of each community. It does seem, though, that this is taking much longer than expected.

When asked if they have been able to speak with other Albertans about such issues since the conference, the responses varied, but indicate that people do try to fit this subject into conversations when they can. Two thirds said they have had many interesting conversations and discussions about the topic with fellow Albertans.
In one community, however, they reported receiving a bittersweet response from their municipality when they tried to have discussions and make presentations about what they learned at RTID II. On the good side, though, and while seeking for transportation solutions (such as a transit system or more viable option for travelling out of town) in their remote area, this community did gain a Greyhound service. Although it is now easier to travel out of town, the service is on a trial period, meaning it may only be temporary. Along with this problem, the lack of a regular and affordable transit service makes it difficult for seniors and low-income families to get around their town and to neighboring areas at a manageable cost. The main concern with this approach is that inserting a Greyhound service anywhere only benefits those who can afford it. It does not help those who do not have their own vehicles and need to get around town.
From a student perspective, transportation in Camrose has improved because we now have some transportation options. I have had chances to use the Pogo Carshare service which began at the ribbon cutting Ceremony during Rural Transportation Information Day II. As an off-campus student, this is a real asset for me. Pogo availability makes it easier for me to perform everyday tasks such as getting groceries, running errands for the student clubs I am involved with, as well as for occasional trips to Edmonton. The great thing about using a Pogo car is that I do not have to wait for a cab (which can mean waiting longer than 45 minutes and sometimes might not even show up). The only downside to using a Pogo car is the inconsistent system of pricing. In the times that I and other students have used it, we have discovered that it charges different prices after each use. For instance, one day it can charge me $9 an hour, and the following day it may charge me $15 an hour for using the same car. Apart from pricing inconsistencies, I recommend it for longer trips, such as ones to Edmonton.
Overall, participants are interested in having follow up meetings for rural transportation. Some, however, prefer an annual meeting like Rural Transportation Day because they live far from the places where meetings tend to be held. Maybe there can be both? And why not have some of the meetings in some new places? Perhaps there is room for more rural transportation meetings and annual conferences with more organizations represented. The theme of "Real Rural" came up several times; a situation that needs to be understood and addressed on its own - as distinct from the rural of larger centres such as Grande Prairie, Wetaskiwin, Camrose, Red Deer, etc. Suggestions for getting more rural organizations involved include invitations to and presentations from the Strathmore Handibus Society, the Rockyview and the High River Handibus Societies, as well as hearing from urban counterparts such as the Canadian Urban Transportation Association.

Participant interest in having regular communications about Rural Transportation is high; through a blog, website or other forms such as this newsletter. Suggestions for website content include an interactive question and answer forum for people to voice concerns, post questions and get answers from people in other communities. 

It is clear that having a province-wide Rural Transportation network would be beneficial to all Alberta communities. It is definitely an idea whose time has come. Moreover, its availability would encourage and support the expanded sharing of knowledge, ideas, experiences, and other resources. 

From our research, it is also clear that Rural Alberta Information Day II-2017 has helped everyone concerned. By coming together and working together to address rural transportation issues we can solve and improve our rural transportation situations. Thanks to Alberta Traffic Safety Fund and everyone who made the conference possible. Going forward, we can definitely achieve more and work towards a better future for our province.        

Opportunities abound for rethinking 
transportation and the design of communications and networks to  
serve rural citizens across the lifespan and the province. 
Transportation for Everyone will make it possible for
Everyone to Get Around.

Rural Transportation News. Alberta 2018 is produced by ALL of Alberta (Association for Life-wide Living of Alberta). Contributors and 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 column writers through
or by calling 780/672-9315.

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. 

*Tamara Masuku is a University of Alberta student from Fort McMurray who uses Red Arrow and other means to get to and from the Augustana Campus. She has been an SCiP (Serving Communities Intern Program) student with ALL since September 2017.

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

Rural Transportation News. Alberta 2018 is produced by ALL of Alberta,
Association for Life-wide Living of Alberta.