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Lacombe Council continues to push for expanded BOLT ridership

Council hopes to find efficiency in program to ease BOLT’s tax impact

Lacombe Council’s desire to find efficiency in the BOLT intermunicipal transit system that connects the City and Blackfalds to Red Deer is facing some issues.

Jonathan Jacobson, Lacombe City counsellor, feels there are differences of opinion between Lacombe and Blackfalds members on the BOLT committee.

“My sense is that our partners in Blackfalds are very happy with the program because they view it as filling a social need they have there. It is more of a social need first, transportation need second, which is fine as a philosophical way of looking at it,” Jacobson said.

He was fully in support of BOLT filling a social need, but Council’s initial intent when forming the BOLT committee was to increase ridership and find efficiencies within the program for Lacombe.

“It costs taxpayers in excess of $200,000 per year for a program that from the outset we could have maybe spent the money somewhere else,” he said. “The whole purpose of this committee was to create a governance body over it to ensure there is a plan in place to maximize efficiency and increase ridership without increasing the costs.

“Maybe we could change the routes or do something else. We don’t seem to be gaining too much traction with that because there is a bit of a difference in the vision of what the program needs to be.”

Jacobson said it is important that BOLT serves a social need in Blackfalds, but the need in Lacombe is currently unclear.

“We are trying to determine what the actual demand is in Lacombe for those individuals to travel inter-municipally,” he said. “Obviously statistically speaking there will always be some and if you speak to them, they will have compelling stories. However, is it worth two percentage points of taxes to support that many people.

“That is the question this board has set out to answer and that is the mandate from the City of Lacombe. We have yet to reach that answer.”

The program is currently in no danger of being cancelled after the City entered into a contract with Burman University to extend the program for three years.

“For us to put a program into place and monitor the changes — it takes awhile. We are running short on time to do that. I don’t know what the next steps are but we need some clarity on what we are doing here,” he said.

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