Lethbridge city council voted to make the cityLINK transit system permanent with quarterly adjustments to reflect feedback, changing travel patterns and metric indicators. Council also voted to refer allocation of $350,000 for transit to operating budget deliberations in November.
“CityLINK has been years in the development, it’s based on the transit master plan and it’s designed with the objective of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our transit network,” said Coun. Belinda Crowson. “Ridership of our transit network has been dropping over the past several decades and transit required a reboot.”
The money was taken out of the transit budget previously and council debated putting it back to help fill in gaps in the system.
”Council took $350,000 out of the transit last year and there was a consequence to that and we heard it loud and clear, not only during election time but leading up to election, of how frustrated people were in regard to how transit has been impacted,” said Coun. Ryan Parker, who voted to allocate the money, but voted against the cityLINK system when it was referred.
“If we just wait until this fall, technically nothing gets implemented until early next year so that’s eight months where people are still going to be disenfranchised, feel like they are missing out, feel like their voices haven’t been heard,” Parker said.
Coun. Jeff Carlson was against allocating the funds at the April 27 meeting and made the motion to defer. He supported keeping the cityLINK system, but argued the $350,000 could be put to better use if it was discussed as part of the operating budget. “All I am asking here is that we do our due diligence, we follow process and we be thoughtful and that we get a plan,” he said.
The motion to refer allocating funds was carried 5-4.
“Mission one for us was ensuring that we have that foundation and we could build from that foundation going forward,” said Tim Sanderson, Lethbridge transit general manager, after the decisions. “We didn’t necessarily hear a no on additional funding, we just heard let’s make it part of the budget process.”
The motion to make cityLINK permanent was carried 7-2, with coun. Parker and Coun. Rajko Dodic opposed.
“So many people have called me and are so disappointed with the changes and I was really hoping the $350,000 was going to go to help those folks in kind of finding a compromise,” Parker said. “I think that a lot of people are being disserviced by not having the changes, I think a lot of people’s voices have been heard and not listened to and I think that money would have went a long way.”
Sanderson said the decision to make the system permanent allows for improvement and change in the transit system. “We have got a three million dollar budget for capital improvements, for city hubs and you are going to start seeing some progress on that in the near future.”
Changes will begin on May 4 with the most notable improvement being transit service to the Lethbridge Airport, according to Sanderson.