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Transit pilot project for Royal Oaks students going to council

About 30 or 40 students could be part of a transit pilot project to get kids from Royal Oaks over to St. John Paul II School. The Grande Prairie Catholic School board approached the city earlier this year with concerns around student safety.

The move for many to the suburbs is leaving space in some of the more centrally located schools in GP. Superintendent Karl Germann says that growth is forcing them add more transit options.

“Because we don’t want any of the kids crossing the major arterial roads, like a Wapiti or a 132nd or a 68th. We deem them to be a hazard to kids and we don’t want the kids to get hurt so we actually automatically transit those kids to the proper school.”

Germann says while he is happy to hear there has been a potential solution presented, he would like to see the pilot program expanded to include more dedicated school routes for students around the city. He would like to see all students from Kindergarten to grade seven ride school buses while those in grades eight through 12 could use city buses.

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City administration has put together a plan for a pilot project that would transport the students over 132 Avenue. Assistant Transit Manager Steve Harvard says the challenge is the area does not meet the minimum requirements for transit service at this point in time.

“It’s a school that was situated in an area that is totally undeveloped anywhere around it. So there has to be really good rationale for that next transit dollar to be spent on that service versus somewhere in an area that needs that service more.”

He says the requests that come in to the transit department are assessed regularly and scored based on a point system to determine where they are warranted.

It was a similar situation when a group of parents along with the board raised concerns about the safety of students on foot in the same area. The city decided to install rapid flashing beacons at the crosswalk to improve visibility but stopped short of the board’s requests for a full set of lights.

Harvard did raise concerns about the limitations the transit system is facing due to budget and time constraints. He says they have to be careful not to address one need at the cost of the rest of the system.

“All of a sudden your route that is timed for 30 minutes becomes 35 or 37 minutes. Then you lose your schedule reliability and then you lose your transfers and it impacts the entire system.”

Harvard says the plan is similar to the dedicated route that serves St Joes’s and Charles Spencer schools.

“There is a dedicated trip in the morning and in the afternoon to pick up St. Joe’s kids. It loops through the city but it’s final destination is specifically for St. Joe’s and Charles Spencer.”

If approved by council the plan is to launch a pilot project for the last two months of the school year. The school is expected to open April 30, 2018 with the pilot project expected to begin in May.

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