New shuttle connects Alberta communities of Lethbridge and Standoff

Blood Tribe residents in Standoff, Alta., will now have an easier time commuting to Lethbridge, after a new shuttle launched earlier this week has created a cost-effective way to travel between the communities.

For many residents of the remote neighbourhood, the trip to Lethbridge has been a challenging reality for decades — one that Roy Sugai said can be dangerous at times.

“It’s a shame to see people hitchhiking… Elderlies hitchhiking to go to doctors appointments,” said Sugai on Wednesday.

The trip has also proven an expensive one for many Blood Tribe members.

“You’re either catching a ride or if you do have enough money for a taxi, you know, catch a taxi,” Sugai said.

Phillip Soop — operations manager of Spotted Eagle Contracting, the company responsible for the shuttle — said those taxi rides can cost as much as $200 per one-way trip.

“I’ve had a number of people come up and talk to me about a number of things that have come up in their lives,” said Soop, “whether it’s been hitchhiking or paying someone an astronomical amount of money to come into town or back home.”

Soop said the shuttle starts early in the morning, just in time to get people to work or school.

“We make a number of stops in and around the reserve, and then make our way into Lethbridge,” he said, “stopping first at Red Crow College on the north side, then here at the downtown terminal, and then up to the ATB Centre.”

Soop said the service was born out of a desire to keep people safer and strengthen the relationship between communities.

“They will have safe, reliable transportation to get here and back home,” he said.

Residents are responding positively to the new mode of transportation.

“When I heard about the shuttle, I thought, ‘Well great. It’s about time we had something like this on the reserve,’” Sugai said.

Tickets can be purchased on the bus anywhere along the route.

A one-way ticket is $20 and a round-trip ticket is $35. A 20-ride pass, which never expires, goes for $160.

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