By Collin Gallant
Alberta Newspaper Group
A rural bus route from Redcliff and Medicine Hat to Lethbridge will begin carrying passengers April 15 and will offer free passage until the end of that month, Southland Transportation announced Friday.
The “Highway 3 Connector” will make stops in 11 centres along Highway 3, with two return trips each weekday.
“This service means residents in rural communities have a new option to get from point A to point B,” said Kit Clark, a manager with Southland, which won a request for proposals process to operate the provincial pilot program.
Last July, the province announced it would provide $700,000 over two years for a pilot project as part of its rural transportation strategy. Officials estimate that 40,000 residents in smaller centres of southeast Alberta, such as seniors heading to medical appointments, or post-secondary students, have no public transportation options.
The route hasn’t had a major carrier since Greyhound closed the route more than six years ago.
A smaller coach operation attempted to service the area in 2016, but discontinued it after one year.
Provincial funds and the program are being administered by the City of Medicine Hat, which is not contributing financially.
“This pilot project is all about helping connect residents in small communities with our community and with Lethbridge, to get them where they need to go,” said Simon Amos, Medicine Hat’s manager of community access.
The morning bus will depart Redcliff public library at 7 a.m. for the Medicine Hat transit terminal, arriving 20 minutes later. Heading west after that, the bus has scheduled drop-offs and pickups in Seven Persons, Bow Island, Burdett, Grassy Lake, Purple Springs, Taber, Barnwell, Coaldale and Lethbridge. Start to finish the travel time is 3 hours 13 minutes.
The return trip leaves Lethbridge city centre at 11 a.m. to arrive in Medicine Hat at 2:15 p.m.
The evening route leaves Redcliff at 3 p.m., turns around at Lethbridge between 6 and 7 p.m. and arrives back in the Hat at about 10 p.m.
A release Friday doesn’t include fares, though it states discounts for seniors and children under 12 will be available.