Major changes in how Cochrane utilizes $6 million in GreenTRIP transit funding has received the thumbs up from the provincial government and the town will now be able to use the funding specifically to develop local transit.
Mayor Ivan Brooker said approval of sweeping changes in how the town utilizes the funding is good news and brings local transit closer to reality.
"Before it was regional and local and there was no opportunity to use it for land purchases and building, so we got it all reversed," says Brooker. "That's fantastic."
Previously the funding largely centred on the purchase of buses for both a regional and local service. Regional transit has since fallen under the wing of the Calgary Regional Partnership and the feasibility of an On-It pilot project is currently being explored.
Brooker believes transit has a better chance of flying this time than in 2011 when it came under fire and was eventually shelved for retooling. He anticipates the earliest it could be launched would be January 2019. It first needs town council's blessings and even then it takes a year to receive the buses.
"That would probably be about the soonest it would start and that's based on the assuption that council thinks the timing is appropriate now versuses the last time it was on the table," says Brooker. "I, for one, didn't think it was the right timing then and it wasn't servicing the whole community. What's on the table now is a service that will cover the whole community and I think it will probably be received more favourably than last time."
With it's booming population, Cochrane is a much different community than it was in 2011. We now have 25,122 people compared to 17,580 in 2011 and many of the newer subdivisions have filled out.
With that in mind, a new feasibility study was completed by Calgary Transit and presented to council in January. It returns to council in the fall to discuss the next steps for the delivery of phaed-out local transit service, including a closer look at costs.
In December, the town received $25,000 in funding from Alberta Transportation to put towards the $25,000 it is expected to cost to complete updated feasibility study and $25,000 towards bus stops and shelters.
To get the $6 million GreenTRIP funding, the town is required to contribute an additional $3 million, making it a $9 million initiative. IIn the plan they presented to the government $2 million was earmarked to purchase eight shuttle buses, $1 million for bus infrastructure, $2 million for the land for downtown transit hub, $3.5 million to plan, design and construct the downtown hub and $500,000 for an on-demand, fare and information system.