A group of university students from Camrose is hoping to turn a class project on public transportation into a reality.
They want to see daily bus service between Edmonton and the city of 19,000 people located about an hour southeast of Alberta’s capital.
The students are from the University of Alberta’s Augustana campus. For a class project, they had to research an issue facing their community.
They settled on the lack of public transportation.
“For students that don’t have vehicles, the struggle to access programs in Edmonton – such as mental health and sexual assault, or even to go shopping or access cultural events – becomes quite a large challenge,” Jacob Rohloff, a student, said.
There are more than 1,000 students currently enrolled at the Augustana campus and Rohloff said 30 per cent of them do not have access to a vehicle.
“If there were to be a public transportation system in place, these individuals could at least get work done on, let’s say the bus rather than having to spend that time driving,” he explained.
As it stands, there are few options available for those needing to commute to Edmonton.
“There is a shuttle service that is offered here by a private company in Camrose,” Rohloff said. “However, the cost is rather high. It’s approximately $100 which is a prohibitive cost for students and individuals of the low income.”
That’s $100 each way. Rohloff said taxis can charge even more and be difficult to convince to leave the city.
Sheralyn Dobos works with low-income families through the Family Violence Action Society.
She said while some domestic violence-related courses are available in Camrose, they can’t accommodate everyone. Classes like anger management fill up quickly.
“We’re turning people away when groups are full. We’re turning them away when they’ve missed deadlines. We’re also turning people away whose schedules don’t fit with the program schedules,” she said.
The nearest place she can recommend people to go to for programming is Edmonton, but Dobos realizes it’s not an option for everyone. Especially when the classes are ongoing, requiring multiple trips over weeks or months.
“For those individuals and families that are struggling with keeping a roof over their head and food in their mouths and their children clothed, the cost of private transportation to Edmonton is prohibitive.”
The City of Camrose says it has been aware of the transportation issue for years and is trying to address it by partnering with other municipalities.
“Namely the City and County of Wetaskiwin, City and County of Leduc, as well as the Town of Millet and the Village of Hay Lakes,” city manager Malcolm Boyd said. “Just exploratory meetings to figure out if there is interest to participate in some sort of regional busing system… and there is interest.”
For the time being, Camrose is exploring the feasibility of twice-daily departures and returns.
The city says if they do go ahead with the buses, there will be an increased burden on taxpayers.
“Obviously it would need to be heavily subsidized. The cost is really dependent on the size of bus and frequency of service. Some of the figures we’re looking at are in the range of $750,000 per year,” Boyd said.
The cost to taxpayers would be between $15 and $20 each way.
Boyd said if Camrose decides to go ahead with the regional bus service it will be at least a year before passengers are commuting to and from Edmonton.