The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says it is concerned about the availability and access to transportation for those living in small, rural and remote communities, especially since the 2018 withdrawal of Greyhound. It pledges to seek ways to work with communities to address those access needs.
Currently, BC Transit provides service in all communities with populations of 10,000 or more, and in several smaller communities. BC Transit also provides regional networks at Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton, Trail, Cranbrook, Kitimat-Stikine and Bulkley-Nechako.
With the initial Greyhound service withdrawal in the north, the Province introduced BC Bus North service to provide an interim long-distance motor coach service solution along many of the discontinued Greyhound routes. BC Bus North is providing four services that connect Prince George with Prince Rupert, Valemount and Fort St John / Dawson Creek, as well as connecting Dawson Creek with Fort Nelson.
The Province is also providing $2 million over three years to support 12 community transportation services for the purchase and operations of vehicles as part of the Community Transportation Grant Program, one of the five actions of the provincial Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan.
The Province also provides financial support through infrastructure grant programs such as the BC Air Access Program, aimed at ensuring airstrips serving remote communities remain a safe and reliable transportation mode for general and emergency access.
The Province is willing to partner with communities to provide local transportation through BC Transit, but local governments must also be prepared to commit their share of transit funding. The transit feasibility study done in 2010 recommended alternative transportation modes for the community, such as volunteer driver and car share programs.
Work to date on inter-community transportation has included discussions with over 80 community and First Nations leaders representing 13 municipalities and districts and 13 First Nations communities along Highway 16 to discuss rural transportation challenges. The meetings focused on finding practical ways to connect residents with services and amenities in major centres, such as getting to medical appointments, doing grocery shopping or simply visiting family and friends.
The recommendations and feedback from over 90 participants actively engaged in the symposium discussions were used to develop the foundation of the $3 million Action Plan for the Highway 16 corridor, which includes up to $750,000 over three years for community transportation conditional grants. This funding will be available to eligible First Nations, local governments and non-profit organizations wishing to establish or expand community-based transportation services.
We want action by the provincial government to create a comprehensive, forward looking plan that fulfills the safety, economic interests, social needs and environmental well-being of rural places, small municipalities and remote communities. The current patchwork private system isn’t working.