The County of Grande Prairie will be joining up with the Town of Wembley as the municipalities are looking at whether or not federal grant money could help a regional Handibus service become a reality.
County Reeve Leanne Beaupre says they were approached by the municipality a little over a year ago, as they were looking for partners for a feasibility study. However, Beaupre says when the pandemic hit, the idea was put on the backburner. That is, until the federal government’s Rural Transit Fund was announced, which would provide $250 million over 5 years to rural municipalities to address transit needs, including transit for seniors, and persons with disabilities.
“Council had been helping with the costs of operating many different types of transportation amongst all the communities and our neighbouring communities,” she says.
“We thought this was an opportunity to look at something more on a regional basis instead of having one off’s here and there we were paying for,” she adds.
Beaupre says the two sides will continue to work together on the feasibility study, while they await further information on the potential funding possibilities.
County looking at future of connector bus.
County councillors have also voted to keep ownership of the County Connector transit bus for future use. They’ve tasked county staff to look into any potential possibilities for using the vehicle, including renting or leasing the bus to local community groups.
Beaupre says it may provide an opportunity to maybe lend a hand to service groups, or not-for-profit organizations who need a transit method for the events they hold when allowed. She says it’s very preliminary in the process, but, she is hoping they can find traction.
“What the potential liability could be to the municipality and whether or not we would have to find the driver for that bus, just different options available to us,” she says.
“In the past we have been asked to help supply funds to go towards buses, renting transit from the city and events like this… and now we may be able to offer that type of service,” she adds.
It’s not yet known when council expects to get any report back from members of administration.
The County Connector linked Clairmont, Sexsmith, Beaverlodge, Wembley, and Hythe to the City of Grande Prairie. The service was part of a two-year provincial Rural Transportation Pilot Program, which ran from 2018 to 2020.