A fleet of comfy public buses hit the road Tuesday morning, taking sleepy commuters from Okotoks, High River, Black Diamond and Turner Valley to Calgary.
"We're focusing on providing a safe, comfortable and stress-free commute," said Colleen Shepherd, executive director of the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP), about the new On-It transit service.
"You do a little extra work if you want, take a nap if you want," she said.
The cushy, 55-seat coaches have onboard washrooms, heat and air conditioning — but are not meant to replace the private express buses currently operating between High River, Okotoks and downtown Calgary.
Instead, the buses connect regional commuters to Calgary Transit by dropping them off at the Somerset-Bridlewood LRT. Residents can also use the service as public transit between Okotoks, High River, Black Diamond and Turner Valley.
The new regional bus service will make two runs at peak commuter hours, five days a week.
"By getting 50 people on a bus as opposed to fifty individual vehicles, the bus creates a far smaller carbon footprint. It's safer. There's less wear and tear on the highways. It's a win-win situation for all taxpayers," said Okotoks mayor, Bill Robertson.
After two years, officials will asses the pilot program and decide if it should be made permanent, with the possibility to expand to Strathmore and Chestermere.
"[It] gives us an opportunity to understand ridership patterns, get a sense who's going to ride and when our service should be deployed so that as we expand our service, we really have a thoughtful approach," Shepherd said.
A one-way ticket ranges from $2 to $8 and must be purchased in advance either online or at one of the regional ticket outlets. Riders cannot buy a ticket on the bus and prices do not include Calgary Transit fares.
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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener