Chestermere City Council authorized administration to purchase shuttle buses and molly trolleys to begin the transit system program during the Jan. 17 council meeting.
“Administration is looking to have council give us direction for what they are looking for, to actually go out look for these things, and once we find them, if they meet our requirements, we can just go ahead and buy them without coming back to council,” Jerry Gautreau of the city’s Strategic Advisory Group said.
The City of Chestermere currently utilizes the MAX Purple line in collaboration with the City of Calgary, during peak travel times. However, councillors wanted to implement a local transit option for residents to use more frequently, making it easier for residents to get to appointments, or to amenities.
“Public transportation is critical to the people who use it and even those who do not. It is a lifeline for many, as it provides mobility options, generates employment, spurs economic growth, and supports public policies regarding energy use, air quality and carbon emissions,” Gautreau said. “All of these are important elements when it comes to considering the benefits, costs and optimal investment levels of public transportation.”
To utilize the MAX Purple line, the City of Chestermere pay’s the City of Calgary about $156,375 annually, in addition to roughly $25,000 to cover repairs and maintenance.
“For that service, it’s fairly expensive for what we’re actually receiving, that’s just my opinion,” Gautreau said. “Annual riders are low, and with the limited times when the bus comes to Chestermere, it’s almost easier to take a car into town than it is to take the bus.”
Gautreau brought forward the idea of molly trolleys opposed to regular transit buses, to set Chestermere apart from other communities.
“A unique trolley and bus transit system will set us apart from other cities and create opportunities for positive conversations and the much-needed public transportation within our city limits,” Gautreau said.
One new molly trolley was estimated at USD $185,000, or between USD $45,000 and USD $65,000 for a used molly trolley. Fuel and maintenance to operate the molly trolleys and insurance was estimated at around $300, per day, when in full operation, or $100 per day when not in operation.
“Council has looked at molly trolleys and thinks that’s neat. The ones we had a motion to go look at, by the time we got back to council, they had been sold,” Gautreau said.
As molly trolleys are sold quickly, Gautreau suggested council review alternative bus options, such as shuttle buses.
A used shuttle bus was estimated at approximately $15,000.
“When we saw this originally, we only talked about molly trolleys, now we’ve been given additional information on the shuttle buses, which I personally really like, and I’d like to see us start with that,” councillor Shannon Dean said. “I’m being as clear as possible, that I want buses driving around Chestermere getting people from A to B, tomorrow.”
Gautreau explained that when council approved the 2023 budget, they also approved the transportation budget of up to $300,000.
“We just introduced the shuttle buses as an alternative because molly trolleys are difficult to get here. My interpretation was always that council wanted to be unique, wanted something different, it seemed that council wanted to go with molly trolleys,” Gautreau said. “When these do come up, we need to react very quickly. We have the budget, and we have the direction of council. We’re working with residents’ money, we want to make sure this is actually going to be viable, not costing us huge amounts of money, but giving us everything we need.”
Mayor Jeff Colvin expressed how important connectivity to the community is for youth, and seniors.
“It’s genuine to have connectivity around the community, the only way to do that is to have some kind of shuttle or transit service that allows us to do that. It’s an important part of our city,” Colvin said.
The transit system would not go into the City of Calgary but have a connecting point from East Hills to Calgary, and run about 16 times per day.
“It helps keep the focus around Chestermere residents,” Colvin said. “I like the idea of molly trolleys and shuttle buses, so we can have a mixture, and backup for different events.”