The Valley’s regional transit commission is closer to putting rubber on the road after an infusion of $900,000 from the province’s Green Trip program.
On Thursday (June 23), Premier Ed Stelmach was in Banff to announce funding for the project, which will pay for two buses to be used as a transportation link between the Bow Valley communities.
Provincial funding for the regional transit system, said Stelmach, is in keeping with tourism opportunities he had recently discussed with western premiers, as an important cog in the West’s economic health.
“Alberta is growing fast and when they move to the province, they need infrastructure and support. People are coming to Alberta because there is opportunity here.”
Having announced his retirement as premier, Stelmach said, “Of all the things I’ll cherish, one of the main things will be the province’s relationship with municipal partners.”
MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) funding and the sharing of tax revenue is important, he said, as are municipal partnerships, “not only with the province, but with each other.”
The Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission (BVRTSC) is a partnership between the towns of Banff and Canmore and ID9 (Improvement District).
Regional transit, said Stelmach, is also in keeping with provincial initiatives like $2 billion for carbon capture and storage and $2 billion put into Green Trip to modernize transit.
“We knew municipalities couldn’t do it alone. There might be a few nickels from the federal government, but it took a lot of hard work and getting people to the table. This is the first commission to be created in Alberta and it will reduce traffic congestion and have the environmental impact of reducing carbon.”
Green Trip funding put $450,000 into each community for the transit commission – to purchase two new diesel electric hybrid buses similar to the Roam units now in Banff. The buses will be barrier-free to allow the elderly and disabled and all others to use them.
Stelmach, who is approaching 60 himself, pointed out that, looking forward, many baby boomers will be turning 65 in the next few years, “and as citizens age, we’re going to need various modes of transportation, especially in smaller communities.”
Banff Mayor Karen Sorenson said the commission is a result of the work of many partners working toward sustainable transit. “It’s a great achievement by a group of stakeholders.
“It will reduce traffic emissions and increase visitation and the Government of Alberta has been a solid champion.”
The commission will manage Roam, then expand to Canmore, Lake Minnewanka, and eventually Lake Louise.
Canmore Mayor Ron Casey said the day had been a long time in coming for the valley. He thanked both Premier Stelmach and MLA Janis Tarchuk for their support, “and I’d like to thank Kevin Van Vliet (Town of Canmore). He’s been an integral part of this right from the beginning. He’s been a great asset to us.
“This is a project that just makes sense – to tie these beautiful mountain towns together just makes sense. It’s a common sense move on all our parts.
“When I was elected in 1995, this was on the agenda, but we were never able to get there. Transit is a long-term funding commitment and Premier Stelmach recognized that. This day is very much a personal credit to him and his understanding of municipalities and their needs.”
MLA Tarchuk said the transit commission, “shows what can be achieved through cooperation.” The commission benefitted from “tens of millions spent across this constituency.”
Tarchuk also thanks Stelmach for his support. “We appreciate and have benefitted from your vision and support of infrastructure. MSI funding as allowed municipalities to dream bigger and helps communities become more vibrant and stronger.”