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Handibus society forced to raise fares

For the past 31 years, the Fort Macleod Handibus Society has strived to provide affordable, accessible, reliable and safe door-to-door transportation for seniors, disabled and temporarily disabled members of the community.
Transportation is provided to these individuals to allow them to or assist them in attending school, work, medical and dental appointments, banking and shopping along with leisure and recreational outings.
During 2017, 7,639 rides were taken on the handibus, of which 1,253 or 13.07 per cent were by patrons in wheelchairs.
It is an ongoing struggle for the handibus society to balance affordable user fees with ever increasing operational costs.
In 2013, expenses to operate the handibus totalled $69,427.00. In 2017 operating costs totaled $85,820.00, an increase of 22 per cent.
The handibus purchased in 2012 is now off warranty and repair costs have increased dramatically in 2018.
The society’s last fare increase was put in place on Aug. 1, 2013. At that time fares were set at $3.25 for a one-way ride. A 12-ride pass could be purchased for $35 and a monthly pass, good for unlimited rides, could be bought for $90.
At the handibus society’s 2018 annual meeting on May 15 the need for another fare increase was discussed. Before setting new rates, board members decided to research fare schedules in other southern Alberta communities offering similar service.

Findings were as follows:

Cardston Patrons buying an annual membership to the Cardston Handibus Society for $15 pay $2.50 for a one-way trip on the handibus. All others are charged $5 per one way ride
Claresholm Residents wanting to access services within the town of Claresholm, shop or enjoy recreational activities and outings rely on friends, family or the Claresholm taxi.Claresholm taxi charges $10 for a one-way fare.If a resident wishes to book the Claresholm handibus for a round trip within town limits the charge is $22 for up to one hour, and $5.50 for every additional 15 minutes of service.
Crowsnest Pass The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass provides bus service between its communities.Charges are $4 per one-way ride for adults and $2 per one-way ride for children
Nanton Handibus service is provided for medical purposes only. Most trips enable residents to access appointments in Calgary or Lethbridge. There is a $15 charge for a round trip within Nanton town limits
Pincher Creek There is a $10 charge per round trip with $2.50 being charged for every additional stop. If a patron wanted to go to the grocery store then home it would cost $10 to use the handibus. If the patron wanted to go to the grocery store, then stop at the drug store, then go home it would cost $12.50.If the patron wanted to go to the grocery store, stop at the drug store, then visit the library before returning home the trip would cost $15.
Taber There is a $4 charge for a one-way ride on the handibus

At the Sept. 20 meeting of the Fort Macleod Handibus Society a motion to increase fares effective Nov. 1 was carried.
As of Nov. 1 a single trip on the handibus will cost $3.75.
Patrons wishing to purchase a 10-ride pass will pay $35. Purchase of a 10-ride pass will allow pass holders to realize a 25 cent per ride saving.
Frequent riders might wish to purchase a $125 monthly pass which will allow the holder to take unlimited trips on the handibus.
User fees have traditionally contributed about 20 per cent of the actual cost to operate the bus.
It is hoped that the new fare schedule will help maintain this balance.
Without support from provincial and municipal grant funding, along with casino monies and generous donations from local organizations, businesses and individuals, it would be impossible to keep the handibus operating.
Fuel and repair costs, insurance costs and wages along with incidental costs of operation rise steadily.
Drivers are the only paid employees of the Fort Macleod Handibus Society. All administrative and organizational duties are carried out by volunteers.
It is hoped that with a modest fare increase and continued support from provincial and municipal levels of government as well as generous support from the community of Fort Macleod this valued and well used service will remain viable for years to come. It is a great asset for the community and its residents.

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