Friday, September 12, 2008

Regional Approach to Public Transit

Growth throughout the province in recent years has shown the need for a regional approach to transportation, particularly in the realm of public transit. Most cities in Alberta have their own transit systems, mostly conventional buses, with Edmonton and Calgary also having successful light rail transit (LRT) systems. The challenge in recent years has been the growth in areas outside the cities but in close proximity to them.

In the immediate Red Deer area, there has been significant residential and commercial growth in Red Deer County, the towns of Sylvan Lake, Blackfalds and Penhold and the hamlet of Springbrook. Only slightly farther away, growth has also been significant in the towns of Lacombe and Innisfail.

The city of Red Deer continues to increase its significance as a regional centre but growth in the areas surrounding it has increased the need for effective, efficient and environmentally-friendly transportation other than the automobile to accommodate the increasingly inter-dependent relationships between the various communities.

Red Deer County and Red Deer Transit recently agreed to work together to serve Gasoline Alley to the south of the city as well as Springbrook and the Red Deer Regional Airport. This is a major step forward in a regional approach to public transit.

Perhaps it's time for the towns of Sylvan Lake, Blackfalds and Penhold to initiate public consultation and engage the city of Red Deer and Red Deer County to examine the viability and practicality of developing a regional transportation system similar to recent regional approaches to water supply, wastewater and garbage.

In the future it could be expanded to include Lacombe and Innisfail or even further beyond to include Olds, Stettler and Ponoka. Such a regional system would prove indispensable when high speed rail becomes a reality whether that is 5, 20 or 50 years in the future. With sufficient population growth, it could even evolve to include some form of rail transit such as tram, commuter rail or LRT.

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