Starting September, late night bus frequency will be reduced from 30 minutes to one hour. The decision was made during 2017 Operating Budget deliberations earlier today.
According to the budget report, ridership on the 10:45 p.m. trip was at most five passengers per bus hour over 10 routes.
The City will save $235,000 with council’s decision. To continue the current frequency of bus service until the fall, the City will spend $156,673 from reserves.
The change will see the late buses arrive at 10:15 p.m. and 11:15 p.m.
Mayor Tara Veer said the decision was made to balance the needs of transit users with those of the community as not taking the cost savings would have added to the tax-supported budget — this item had already been accounted for in the original budget.
She asked if council could rationalize spending nearly a quarter-million dollars on about 50 people.
“I feel like we’ve tried to accommodate the needs of transit users through freezing the transit fees, which is unheard of,” Veer said.
Three voted against taking the cost savings – Councillors Buck Buchanan, Lynne Mulder and Paul Harris.
Council also reduced the City’s tax rate increase to 2.10% by ending its purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) on the seventh day of operating budget deliberations.
The unanimous decision nets the City $98,000 in savings, $56,000 from the tax-supported portion of the operating budget.
RECs are credited by a third party auditor to renewable energy generators per unit of green energy they pump into the power grid. They are sold to customers, who can then claim to be contributing to environmental impacts, such as offsetting their carbon footprint or helping energy providers build renewable infrastructure.
The cost saving was not originally recommended because it, “Would send a negative environmental message.”
Councillor Tanya Handley provided council a number of reasons to save the money – administration had stated that buying RECs yields no ‘tangible benefits’, that RECs result in no reduction in what it pays for the carbon tax, of which is costing the City budget $567,929 over the next two years as well as $235,809 in higher electricity bills.
“I think over half a million dollars sends a pretty darn good message for our community and I don’t think we need to continue to pay $98,000 for those certificates, which we see no benefit for,” Handley said.
She found herself a surprise ally — Harris, who described RECs as an outdated method to fight climate change in light of the new carbon tax, which will be levied onto greenhouse gas-emitting fuels.
“So you’re essentially taxing the good guy to do the good,” Harris said.
Harris did make a subsequent motion directing administration to use those savings to find ongoing energy savings. That motion was defeated.
Council also approved Speed on Green technology, joining other cities including Edmonton, Calgary, Grande Prairie and Lethbridge.
Administration said those communities have seen decreases in speeding violations over time and improved safety.
The City has to advertise Speed on Green’s implementation for three months. Once the cameras start working, that’s followed by 30-day grace period.