Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A new option for Highway 16 travel?

Prince Rupert City Council will find some interesting reading material in their pre council meeting packages today, a proposal for a transportation network that could reduce the risk of hitch hiking along the Highway 16 corridor.

With Greyhound reducing its service on the Highway 16 route and the proposed inter-city shuttle project first championed by Smithers Council still in the thinking out stage, communities across the Northwest have been discussing the issue of hitch hiking and how best to improve transportation  and safety options along the highway.

To that theme comes a submission from Andre Virly, who has provided some background on his proposal for the Mayor and Council to give some thought towards tonight at the City Council session, a project called Northwest British Columbia Autostop.

The proposal seems to have its origin from a similar program in Poland going back  from 1957 to 1995, a project called Action Autostop. It was an organized process which would see hitch hikers pick up "coupons" at tourist offices in various communities, travellers would hand the coupons to those that picked them up, the drivers then returning the coupons for a variety of prizes and or services provided by the community.

It's a system that no longer exists there in any official form, though there still appears to be an unofficial system in place in that country to try and match up those seeking and giving rides.

That theme is part of his proposed project, which would take aspects of that Polish model and change some of the dynamics of it for use in the Northwest

The basic premise being that the Highway 16 version  would apparently feature formal stop locations and certified drivers, part of a pool of drivers who have had background checks conducted and then are registered as part of the Autostop program.

Riders would be issued identification as well, though the riders would apparently not have to have background checks or other such requirements in order to participate in the program.

There could be a driver log in / log out process in place for the project for added security for both driver and passenger.

The drivers would receive reward options  such as gas vouchers, ICBC discounts, credits towards vehicle repairs and servicing or other rewards as determined by program administrators.

Where Municipal government across the region would apparently enter the picture is through the administration of the program, part of a network of communities across the region that would be responsible we imagine for tracking the logs and voucher system.

The sources of funding are identified as possibly coming from Federal, provincial and municipal governments as well as First Nation communities, businesses and even users of the service themselves.

Whether municipal governments across the Northwest are inclined to take on the administrative duties of such a service is probably an issue that would prove problematic, especially if some communities decide that it's a valid option and others don't find quite as much value in it. The success of such a project would most likely require acceptance across most of the region from Prince George to Prince Rupert.

The proposal makes for an interesting read, one which has a number of positive aspects and some potential negatives. Some of the concepts seem workable, while other particulars of it are perhaps not something that local governments may wish to be involved with.

Still, it's a concept that may spur on some more debate over the issue of hitch hiking along the highway 16 corridor and ways to reduce the risk that can come from it.

The idea is certainly different from much of what has been suggested thus far, as the author of the project says, his plan is not one that has been picked up by much of the media as of yet.

No doubt his correspondence to city councils across the region is designed to create some interest in his proposal and provide for further examination and discussion.

You can review the nine page proposal  from from the City's website,  it is item number four on the Information package for February 6th.

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