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Significant ridership increases from free local transit in Canmore

CANMORE – Local transit in Canmore was already seeing increased ridership in 2018, but a two-month trial of fare-free transit in the community has exceeded expectations, according to municipal officials.
Fare-free local transit in July and August in Canmore saw significant increases in ridership as a result.

CANMORE – Local transit in Canmore was already seeing increased ridership in 2018, but a two-month trial of fare-free transit in the community has exceeded expectations, according to municipal officials.

Roam Transit Canmore local Route 5 was experiencing a 34 per cent increase in the first months of the year over 2017 numbers, according to manager of engineering for the Town of Canmore Andy Esarte.

But a decision to provide free transit in the community for July and August saw ridership increase by 113 per cent. Esarte said in July and August 2017 there were 10,000 trips taken and in 2018 that number rose to 25,000.

“The pilot exceeded the projections we expected based on fairly extensive research done on fare-free transit in resort municipalities,” he said. “Based on that research, we projected a 20 to 60 per cent increase in ridership and what we saw was probably close to 80 to 90 per cent when year-over-year increases were factored in.”

Esarte said the pilot project demonstrates the potential for this kind of service in Canmore.

He added, now that Canmore local Route 5 is back to collecting the $2 fare, ridership in the first week of September was 34 per cent over what it was in 2017.

Esarte said the investments being made into transportation networks in Canmore – including complete streets, active transportation and transit – are helping address council’s strategic priorities.

One of the goals of the fare-free pilot was to reduce parking challenges and traffic congestion in the town centre. Fare-free transit also provides opportunities for seniors, low-income families and youth to take the bus in the community and contributes toward affordability and lowering the living wage.

“It is one of council’s priorities to investigate fare-free transit and its budget implications as part of this year’s budget deliberations,” Esarte said. “We are looking at those costs and different ways to make that happen.”

Council approved the pilot earlier this year at a cost of $15,000, which represents lost fare revenues and advertising of the two-month initiative.

The local transit route was also launched in 2017 with two months fare-free in November and December that year.

The regional route between Canmore and Banff has also seen increased ridership this year of 20 per cent over 2017 numbers.


Tanya Foubert

About the Author: Tanya Foubert

Tanya Foubert started as a news reporter at the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2006. She won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for best news story for her coverage of the 2013 flood. In December 2018, she became editor of the Outlook.
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