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Transit open houses scheduled amid spending concerns

The Jasper Transit Open House will take place Thursday, April 18 at the Jasper Activity Centre from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Hall and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Arena Lobby.
Jasper Transit makes a stop at Whistlers Campground during its launch day on Sept. 5, 2023. | Peter Shokeir / Jasper Fitzhugh

The Municipality of Jasper is looking for feedback about its new transit service amid concerns that it is costing the community too much.

Council considered some of these concerns from the Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce during Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting.

“We realize that a grant for this project is currently available, however, you are now proposing a multi-decade financial and operational commitment with a vague and incomplete business plan,” wrote Troy Mills, president of the Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce, in a letter to Mayor Richard Ireland and council.

“The potential costs associated with the operations and infrastructure of this project could very quickly dwarf the grant money and leave our community with an additional, ongoing tax burden.”

While acknowledging the benefits of transit, the chamber highlighted concerns about spending taxpayer money on “unproven” electric buses and a facility to house them.

In 2023, the municipality was approved for a $5-million federal grant to support the procurement of transit capital items.

The grant application includes the purchase of up to three zero-emission transit buses and the construction of a facility to house the buses.

The municipality has since put out a request for proposal for the estimated $3.6-million transit facility, although more exact quotes will come in once the request for proposals closes on May 10.

So far, 21 potential bidders have expressed interest in the procurement.

While the grant will cover most of the construction cost, the municipality will still have to borrow $726,000 with the total payments over five years, encompassing both principal and interest, amounting to around $831,020.

As for the electric buses, administration is now in the process of developing a statement of requirements and will return to council before putting out a request for proposal.

Coun. Scott Wilson emphasized that council had not yet committed to spending money on either electric buses or a new fleet facility, and they were currently seeking information on how much these items would cost.

“If we feel that it's not going to be financially viable, we will not be going forward,” Wilson said.

“And there's like this narrative out there – and some portion of it, I think the JPCC is getting behind it – is that we are spending before we know how much it's going to cost, and we aren't. We are going out, and we are getting the information, and we're going out to tender.”

A petition has also been launched calling for council to stop the procurement of electric buses until a study is finalized.

The petition had garnered 380 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

Coun. Rico Damota said he was grateful for the feedback from the chamber but noted how the chamber included a link to the petition in its recent newsletter.

“I personally feel as a councillor that there's a little bit of misinformation [in the petition] … I'm just wondering if the chamber had reached out to administration to see if any of these items that were mentioned were factual,” he said, specifically noting the claim that taxes were going up 40 per cent in the past three years.

Chamber executive director Pattie Pavlov, who attended the meeting, replied that the initial newsletter was a draft that accidentally made its way into the system.

“I can also tell you that the petition link was carefully worded to say it is clearly at the discretion of businesses and residents,” Pavlov said.

“If they choose to pursue this, here's where you get the information. We were neither promoting nor shutting down the concept of residents being able to sign a petition, should they choose to do so.”

Riders will be able to provide feedback about transit this month.

The Jasper Transit Open House will take place Thursday, April 18 at the Jasper Activity Centre from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Hall and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Arena Lobby.

Residents can also provide their feedback through an online survey at or they can pick up a paper copy of the survey at the Jasper Activity Centre or Administration Office.

Transit update

Jasper Transit provided service to 8,861 riders through 91 total service days in the first quarter of 2024, according to an update from administration.

“This compares very favorably to amount of estimated riders that was developed in the 2023 Strategy and Action Plan,” said CAO Bill Given.

As of Feb. 5, the municipality has been tracking a schedule adherence metric, and for February and March, the metric hovered around 90 per cent.

Additionally, in response to discussions with the Grande Yellowhead Public School Division, the municipality worked with its contractor to launch a “yellow bus” student service on April 3.

Prior to this, students were using a white bus.

Given added how live bus location tracking has launched via the free PassioGO! Transit app.

Council also considered a proposed Transit Service Standards Policy but sent it back to administration for retooling.

Administration will return with a revised policy at a future meeting.

Editor's note: The Jasper Transit Open House hours were extended to 8 p.m.

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