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City council approves bus route to Regina Airport, funding for paratransit in 2020 budget

A Regina Transit Bus .
A Regina Transit Bus . File / Global News

Busing to the Regina Airport could become a reality as early as this spring, say transit officials.

“The target date is for May of 2020,” Lynette Griffin, manager of paratransit and accessibility, said in an interview with Global News Wednesday. “But it hasn’t been finalized yet.”

The airport route is one of three transit-related items that were added to the proposed 2020 city budget during council’s Tuesday night deliberations. Funding to reduce the paratransit wait list and for service to the Westerra neighbourhood were also approved.

The three projects require $292,000 beyond what was outlined by administration for next year. Council will dip into the the $6.5-million surplus from last year to cover the cost.

READ MORE: Regina city council passes $96M policing budget for 2020

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The airport route, a three-year pilot costing the city $144,000 in 2020, will not be an extension of an existing service, said Griffin. It will be a brand new addition — although it does not yet have a number.

Tentatively, the bus will travel along 13th Avenue between the airport and the downtown transit hub on 11th Avenue, operating between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and between 4 p.m. and 1 a.m. Decisions around the schedule take into consideration flight times and airport workers’ shifts.

Not all council members supported proceeding with it so soon.

Some council members questioned evidence of a business case and the potential involvement of not-yet-consulted parties — potentially hotel associations.

Coun. Lori Bresciani said Wendesday that she “was on the fence,” but voted in favour as the Regina Airport Authority is putting up $300,000.

“They’re investing their interest, they’re saying there’s a value,” Bresciani said. “I think we should take a look at it, assess it after a year, see how its doing again after two years and go from there.”

Bresciani, who proposed multiple amendments — not all of which passed — said during the meeting that transit in Regina is a “huge issue” and that as a city “we need to do better.”

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Bresciani was successful in her ask for additional funding for paratransit, a provincial program that’s been downloaded to the city.

Council approved $50,000 to reduce the number of potential passengers being denied single-service trips (since January, the number has climbed to more than 900) as well as the wait list of 60 people who are waiting for a regular spot on a bus to take them to appointments and/or to work.

Griffin said paratransit plans to use the money to address both issues. Some will go toward extending the existing regular paratransit service hours to reduce the wait list while the rest will be to pay for supplemental taxi trips.

With an aging population, Griffin expects the demand for paratransit to only increase.

“Paratransit is so appreciative that council sees our service as a priority and has designated some extra resources for us,” she said.

In terms of extending busing to Westerra, council heard Monday night from developer Chad Jedlic about safety concerns.

He said residents and employees of neighbourhood businesses were finding themselves walking half a mile along the shoulder of Dewdney Avenue to get to the nearest stop. Council allocated $98,000 to solve that problem by providing better access.

READ MORE: City of Regina releases proposed 2020 budget, eyes 3.25% mill rate increase

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There were proposals made during the meeting to increase service on individual bus routes 60 and 18. Neither were successful.

Coun. Bob Hawkins said Tuesday night that each council member could probably find a transit route proposal needed in their ward.

“We simply can’t design a transit system by voting on one-offs,” Hawkins said.

The city has a transit master plan coming but it is not expected within the next year.

Budget deliberations continue Friday at 1 p.m. in the council chambers.