Alix eyes partnership with bus service

ALIX – The Village of Alix is looking into possibly partnering with a local bus service to give residents another option for mobility. The decision was made a presentation at the Dec. 2 council meeting.

Alix council heard a presentation by East Central Express owner/operator Robert Duncan who stated he runs a taxi and bus service to Stettler and Red Deer twice a day. He said he was proposing a potential partnership with the village.

Duncan stated he felt the partnership would help Alix residents because Alix’ population is aging and stated 17 per cent of Alix residents are 65 years and older and as people age their ability to drive is reduced or even eliminated.

He noted having a bus service would provide seniors with the ability to attend medical appointments, prescriptions and other important appointments.

He added that disabled people have similar challenges as seniors do. 

Duncan said he gets requests to transport disabled people but cannot accommodate every request, which is something he’s looking at changing in the future.

Duncan stated taxi and bus service also provides an affordable option for rural residents who cannot afford to own a vehicle. 

Further, he stated having the services here could provide economic benefits to the village as people may move to Alix knowing there is a reliable bus service here.

Mayor Rob Fehr said council had discussed the idea and he acknowledged Alix does have a large senior population and mused that having such a service could help keep people in their homes longer. 

“I think there’s a good opportunity here,” said Fehr.

Coun. Barb Gilliat wondered if other communities might also be interested in this service.

Coun. Ed Cole asked how much East Central Express charges for a trip to Red Deer. Duncan answered about $20 each way, and stated a taxi is now about $60 to $80 while it’s about $160 from Stettler to Red Deer.

Coun.Tim Besuijen asked how many trips per day? Duncan answered trips are pre-booked and he goes to Stettler twice a day, then back to Lacombe.

When asked what Duncan was requesting from the village he answered a subsidy to cover Alix resident trips.

Coun. Cole stated if village funds help cover Alix trips, then he expected to see a discount for seniors and disabled people.

Coun. Vicki Soltermann noted this could be a good opportunity for rural areas now that major bus lines are no longer running. 

“It’s a really interesting idea,” said Soltermann.

Duncan stated he would be contacting other communities about the idea and would report back to the village administration with the results. 

It was also noted the proposal may be included in the village’s future budget deliberations.

Stettler approached

Duncan also sent a letter to Stettler town council with much the same suggestion but different results. The letter was read at the Dec. 1 regular meeting of council.

Duncan’s letter asked if the town was interested in partnering with East Central Express to provide taxi and bus service to Stettler residents.

Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Steven Gerlitz stated East Central Express is a for-profit business.

Mayor Sean Nolls stated he appreciates the service the company provides but the Town of Stettler doesn’t give grants to private business.

Readers should note the town recently approved grant funding for the Stettler Handi-bus Society, a non-profit society.

There was no further discussion on Duncan’s letter and councillors accepted the letter for information.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/East Central Alberta Review