Jasper Municipal Council awarded the request of proposal for a public transit system. | File photoScott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Council voted to award therequest for proposal (RFP) for a Jasper Public Transportation (Transit) System to PWTransit Canada after a two-hour discussion during Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

Coun. Wendy Hall put forward the motion that also came with a recommendation that council also amend the 2023 operational budget to include an additional $514,000 for public transit operation.

“I absolutely support public transit,” she said, noting its environmental sensibility while also alleviating accessibility issues for those residents who don’t have their own transportation.

For background, Chief Administrative Officer Bill Given offered that a number of the municipality’s key planning documents, which go back to the 2011 Jasper Community Sustainability Plan, suggest that public transportation alternatives should be explored.

The idea was to explore an option that would satisfy the needs of residents, visitors and students of the Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD). The RFP proposed a three-year agreement requesting that pricing submissions show the total cost of operation (including provision of driver and fuel), maintenance and storage.

Two valid applications were received by the April 14 deadline. SunDog Tours was the other applicant, though the greater experience of PWTransit was touted as one of the four criteria that tipped the scales in its favour.

Given noted that it is a subsidiary of the largest privately held bus company in the country and provides a wide range of transit services to municipalities and other agencies nationwide.  

“They are a large organization with substantial experience,” he said.  

PWTransit’s proposed Jasper operation would consist of one local transit supervisor/customer service agent and two drivers.

The PWT proposal also includes the provision of a customer facing transit app. This app provides public access to real-time bus tracking, as well as route and schedule information as well as transit alerts.

“For those people that are waiting for the bus, they’ll be able to see when it’s a few minutes late, for example,” Given said.

It also provides cues to drivers to help them manage their schedule and provide useful and significant data including stop by stop passenger counts. This would help future route planning by identifying hotspots and priority areas in the transit system.

Hall added that council direct administration to return to a future council meeting with the outlines of the satisfactory contract negotiated with PWTransit for council approval and that council directed me to receive partner contributions to offset the cost of blood transportation.  

The budgeted sum of $514,000 would be funded with a combination of $50,000 from external contributions from the GYPSD, a modestly estimated $17,000 from fare revenue, $197,000 from the Public Transportation and Parking Reserve and $250,000 from the 2022 year-end surplus.

Mayor Richard Ireland referenced a conversation with a member in attendance in the gallery who brought up the issue of financing the venture on the backs of taxpayers.

“It’s raising the concern that transit cannot be at the sole cost of the taxpayer,” he said.

He confirmed that the motion would direct administration to pursue other contributions to keeping public transit alive.

“While we support the notion of public transit, there has to be a limit in terms of cost to taxpayers and to our budget. We will see who else is prepared to pony up,” Ireland said.

Councillors Ralph Melnyk, Helen Kelleher-Empey and Kathleen Waxer abstained from the vote due to potential perceived conflicts of interest.

By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 17, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from    The Fitzhugh    Jasper, Alberta

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