INNISFAIL – Local citizens needing transit on weekends will no longer have access to the town’s PACE handivan bus.
At town council’s Jan. 16 meeting a letter from Don Harrison, the interim manager at the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104, requested that weekend service be discontinued as “ridership seems to be no longer there.
“The Saturday grocery trips are one or two and Sundays are only one individual for church. It is not economical to offer this service until the ridership improves,” said Harrison in his letter.
He added that a taxi company has been contacted and future trips can be accommodated if a reservation is made.
Harrison, who is also a member of town council, excused himself from all council discussions on the transit issue to avoid any conflict of interest concerns.
During council’s discussion it was noted the branch is ending its longstanding transit agreement with the Town of Innisfail in April.
The town has been giving the local the branch an $88,000 annual operating grant to administer the service, which includes dispatching and providing drivers.
Since last month the town has been reviewing future transit options for Innisfailians, including contracting out the service to an outside private transit company.
“There's certainly some anxiety about the future of the service in the next few months,” said Meghan Jenkins, the town’s director of community services.
Mayor Jean Barclay wanted to know whether the figure of only one person needing service on Sunday was accurate.
Jenkins said her information was based from the driver’s log.
“Those are only the trips that they actually completed. There's no record of whether someone called and they were not accommodated,” said Jenkins.
Council accepted Harrison’s recommendation and later in the week the interim branch manager confirmed weekend PACE handivan service is being immediately discontinued.
He said local folks needing rides on weekends will have to either call a taxi or go through local churches to connect with a volunteer driver.
“I know some church members have made arrangements with their church with other members to catch a ride,” said Harrison. “I certainly can't comment on what the town might do after April but if the demand really increases and showing that the ridership is steady and sustainable we will certainly offer that service again.”