Class is back in session and Colt is once again seeing an increase of student ridership. The On-Demand Local Transit system has been in operation for almost a year now and has been a popular mode of transport amongst Cochrane's student population.
Devin Lafleche is the special projects planner and he says that it's great to see more students on board again, but the On-Demand service will not replace regular school bus services.
He says "We do have a lot of students who are trying to use Colt instead of school busing. That is something we don't allow for. What we do encourage is for students to use Colt when there's not a school bus route. If they're going to an after school job if they're going to a friend's and there's not a school bus route or an after school extracurricular. We just can't fill in for when there is a school bus route."
At $25 for a monthly student pass, Colt fees add up to $250 for the school year. In comparison to the $375 fee for a yearly school bus pass - Colt fares are more affordable.
Still, Lafleche says that there's a reason school bus services are around and Colt can't fill that gap for areas that already have a school bus route in place.
"We were seeing that because Colt is a bit more affordable and also convenient and faster, but there's a reason we have school bus routes. Just to take half the kids ages 10-15, we would need 80 Colt buses."
Lafleche says that they have held off on running one of their regular morning buses which usually runs during the peak morning rush hour in order to encourage students to use their designated school bus service.
While COVID-19 has affected the number of people utilizing the local transit service, Lafleche says that numbers have been steady for several months now.
"We see between 120-130 riders a day. We're about 30 percent down from pre-COVID, but we're seeing the same level of ridership even before school started."
Face masks aren't currently mandatory on board a Colt bus, however, Lafleche says that passengers are encouraged to wear them, and follow social distancing protocols.
He says "The province has provided us with masks that we hand out on all of our Colt buses and ticket sales locations. We also have social distancing in place. We've actually limited the capacity of the buses, and try to limit it to a maximum of six passengers of different cohorts. We adjust if people are coming from the same cohort but six strangers is really the maximum allowed on the bus."
The Cochrane based transit service has been recognized as a sustainability leader and trailblazer in a Canadian municipality. They recently won The Canadian Federation of Municipalities (FCM) Sustainable Communities Awards that celebrates environmental initiatives in Canadian communities of all sizes.