- Level 1: free yearly pass - Kindergarten to Grade 12 students who reside at least 2.4 km from their designated school.
- Level 2: $410/yearly pass - Kindergarten to Grade 9 students who reside between 1.6 km and 2.4 km from their designated elementary or junior high school, and high school students attending IB or AP.
- Level 3: $500/yearly pass - Kindergarten to Grade 12 students eligible for a stand-by pass.
- Replacement pass - $15
For levels 2 and 3, a maximum family rate is available for families paying for more than two bus passes. The third child is 50% off, and further children beyond that are free.
The full amount of the fee is due when the pass is issued. Exceptions because of financial circumstances require approval by the Manager, Transportation Services.
Pro-rated refunds may be approved on the basis of an acceptable reason for no longer requiring bus service.
Returned cheques will result in a $25 administration charge.
Why are fees going up for 2017-2018?
A fee increase is required for a number of reasons.
- Government funding has been frozen at the same rate since 2012. In addition, the government eliminated the fuel contingency program in 2013.
- Carrier rates continue to increase.
- The district continues to implement a number of initiatives that have increased student safety and parent convenience. This includes new software that tracks students, and a transportation program which allows parents to monitor their child’s bus status.
- The City of St. Albert is growing, as is the number of students in our school district. As the city expands and our ridership grows, so too does the complexity of our routes. The district strives to provide a high level of service based on maintaining reasonable ride times for students, while traffic in the city becomes more congested. This comes at a cost.
- When our two new schools open in 2017 and 2018, the district's provincial government transportation grants will decrease. Previously grant-eligible students will no longer be funded because they now live less than 2.4 km from their designated school. For 2017-2018, the impact of this is estimated to be $225,000 less in provincial transportation grant revenues. However, no buses are saved as district wide, more routes are required due to city expansion into areas such as Jensen Lakes, Erin Ridge North and Riverside. Also, triple runs are utilized, therefore the number of buses is not reduced (please see Q & A's below for an explanation of triple runs).
- With the new Bill 1 legislation, the district can no longer charge a few to riders who live more than 2.4 km from their designated school. The district will receive a transportation grant instead for each of these students, based on the transportation fees collected in 2015-2016 from this category of students.
While we seek to run a very efficient transportation system and are always looking for ways to improve, the bottom line is that we have two sources of funding for transportation: provincial government grants and student bus fees. If transportation costs are not covered through these two sources, our only other option is to pull money from the classroom to subsidize busing. This is, clearly, not a desired solution, and therefore we do that to a limited degree and make the difficult decision to raise fees. Our fees are competitive and often well below those of our surrounding school boards, as indicated in the chart below. Please note that some of the other districts in the chart have not yet announced their rates for next year, so current rates are quoted.
Questions and Answers
1. What is a triple run?
To be efficient, most of our school buses operate a triple run. By coordinating school start times, the same bus completes a route with high school students, then does a route with junior high students and finally completes a route with elementary students each morning. The sequence is reversed in the afternoon.
2. Why a triple run?
The busing contractors charge the district the same daily rate for a single vs. a triple yellow bus run. The yellow bus contractor's main cost is for the purchase of a yellow bus and recruiting and hiring a driver. The additional cost for the time to complete an additional route is not significant.
3. Why doesn't St. Albert Public Schools coordinate with the City of St. Albert for transportation services?
We review this idea periodically to determine if efficiencies can be realized. However, obstacles remain:
- The city would only transport junior and senior high students. The cost to transport these students would not leave us with enough funds to transport elementary students.
- A lack of capacity and difference in routing. During our morning school runs, the city's bus fleet is already utilized completing a sweep and gather of the city. It then transports commuters into post-secondary institutions and downtown Edmonton.
- The city's transit system is not designed to transport passengers around the city but instead gathers and delivers them to the terminal stations.
4. Why doesn't St. Albert Public Schools coordinate with Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools for transportation services?
Our district is growing and our triple yellow bus runs are efficient and highly utilized. Most of our buses are already full.
5. Why do I see buses that aren't full driving in the city?
At times, our buses may not be full. Along a route, students are continually being dropped off or picked up so the buses are rarely full except when they are at the schools. Additionally, not everyone who purchases a pass would necessarily be on the bus every day, and some buses serve multiple schools, dropping students off at one before proceeding to another.
6. Is the fee increase due to Bill 1?
Not directly. Before Bill 1 was proposed, fees were projected to increase to combat a changing transportation environment.
7. What does Bill 1 mean to students who live more than 2.4 km from their designated school?
With the introduction of Bill 1, students who live more than 2.4 km and attend their designated school cannot be charged a busing fee. The district will instead receive a transportation grant for each of these students equal to the amount of transportation fees collected in 2015-2016 from this category of students. In the past, the district, along with many other Alberta school districts, charged a transportation fee to these students. These revenues supported a transportation system that was efficient and effective in terms of accessibility and ride times.
8. What are the other impacts of Bill 1?
Under Bill 1, the district will receive funding from the provincial government equal to the fees collected from riders who live more than 2.4 km from their designated school, based on the 2015-2016 school year. Due to an increase in fees and a change in ridership, this amount is less than what the district collected from this category of riders in transportation fees in 2016-2017. It is also less than what was anticipated to be collected in 2017-2018.
An additional 930 potential riders who live more than 2.4 km from their designated school, who have not purchased a bus pass in the past, are now eligible for a free bus pass. We are unsure how many of these new potential riders will request a bus pass and require a seat on a bus.
9. Why doesn't the district just stop transporting students who live less than 2.4 km from their designated school?
Some Alberta school districts already do not transport students living less than 2.4 km from their designated school. Our board firmly believes that 1.6 km is a more reasonable walk limit in an urban setting for elementary students. The district has students living less than 2.4 km on almost every route. The additional revenues generated from these riders assists in offsetting costs, maintaining overall reasonable ride times and delivering acceptable service levels for all transported students.
*Students who live 2.4 km walking distance from their designated school. These students receive provincial funding.
**K-9 students who live between 1.6-2.4 km walking distance from their designated school, and high school students attending IB or AP. These students do not receive provincial funding but qualify for busing by district standards.
***Students who do not qualify for busing (e.g. they live closer than 1.6 km from their designated school, attend a school other than their designated school or attend a program of choice).