On-demand bus service will now stop in Lacombe

As the winter months arrive, Rob Duncan expects demand for his bus and taxi services to grow

East Central Express also offers wedding or event shuttle services and tours of the Rocky Mountains. Photo courtesy of East Central Express.

The East Central Express will now stop in Lacombe for residents wanting to travel to Red Deer or the surrounding areas.

The Lacombe Express previously reported that the East Central Express was having problems operating in Lacombe due to a transportation bylaw. However, Rob Duncan, owner of the East Central Express, has since acquired approval to operate in the city.

The East Central Express is an on-demand bus and taxi system that operates on an as-needed basis. Residents in Lacombe can call the company to arrange a ride and the taxi will take them anywhere in the city as well as to Edmonton and Calgary.

The bus system works a bit differently. It has fixed routes but it’s also flexible depending on where riders need to go. Similar to the taxi, residents can call the East Central Express and the bus will pick them up at their home. The main difference is that customers might have to be picked up an hour earlier or later depending on the rest of the bus-goers needs.

The main route is from Stettler to Red Deer with stops along the way, including Lacombe. The bus stops and picks up customers from three locations in Red Deer, the hospital, Red Deer College and the Red Arrow. These locations were based on where customers told Duncan they needed to go.

Duncan also offers discounted senior and student rates for those needing regular trips into Red Deer for hospital or college visits.

However, so far demand for the bus in Lacombe is lower than Duncan initially expected.

“I haven’t had very many calls out of Lacombe for service, although I do have some regulars from the County who are going to Stettler,” said Duncan.

According to Duncan, COVID-19 and a lack of awareness about the company may be to blame. He expects ridership to increase during the winter months and as COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease and more services in Red Deer begin to reopen.

For both taxi and bus services, the East Central Express is following COVID-19 protocols set forth by Alberta Health Services. This includes mandatory mask use on the bus, the sanitization of all surfaces regularly and payment can be made digitally to avoid handling cash.

Lacombe Regional Tourism supports the transportation service and is optimistic about the impact it will have on the community.

“We look forward to promoting the opportunities being offered by East Central Express,” said Angel Hand, executive director for Lacombe Regional Tourism.

Residents interested in booking either vehicle can call East Central Express to arrange a ride and learn more about prices and packages available.