|North Coast communities will be taking|
a different approach to transportation
issues along the Highway 16 corridor
While a number of communities across Northwestern British Columbia are in the midst of rolling out their transportation plans to address issues along Highway 16, when it comes to how the North Coast will aproach the topic of transportation in the Northwest, it appears that the plan currently in place through a local social agency will remain the right fit for this region.
On Wednesday, the City of Prince Rupert issued an information release that outlined how the City, Port Edward and some of the First Nations communities of the region viewed the issue which has been a topic of much concern over the last number of years across Northwestern BC.
Those speaking to the topic yesterday were seemingly all in agreement, that holding to the Transportation voucher system hosted by the North Coast Transition Society makes for the best solution for local concerns related to the Highway of Tears.
That system currently has the Transition Society providing emergency funds and travel assistance to women and children needing safety from violence, that assistance ranges from taxi vouchers to the Transition House in Prince Rupert, or vouchers for use on the current transportation options in and out of Prince Rupert provided by Greyhound or VIA Rail.
NCTS also offers a dedicated 24/7 phone line to text or call-in for people to use in the event that they need to travel distances at any time day or night but do not have the means to pay themselves.
Christine White, the Executive Director of the NCTS expanded on how the Society is working with the City to create a funding model for the local initiatives.
“NCTS is working with the City of Prince Rupert to come up with a funding model to ensure women's safety when having to leave the community, ... This system has proven to be an effective safety measure as it is responsive, immediate and cost effective, building on systems already in place. NCTS believes that in partnership with the City, this service could be broader if the need of the community requires it to be.”
As part of the City's information release, Mayor Lee Brain observed as to some of the plans of neighbouring communities and how area stakeholders came to their decision to pursue a different approach than the cities and towns located further inland.
“One of the most important issues facing Northern BC residents is safe transportation along Highway 16, particularly for at-risk travelers. We want to ensure that we are supporting a solution that will provide 24 hour a day, 7 day a week transportation that will have the most impact in reducing the danger to at-risk travelers in our area, especially women and girls, ... North Coast Transition Society’s existing service provides a safe and immediate response, and in addition NCTS provides wraparound social services and support to women and children to ensure they are adequately provided for in times of need. We believe this to be the most important priority.”
The City's information release also highlighted four areas of note related as to how the area stakeholders view the North Coast as a unique situation, requiring a localized solution when it comes to the transportation plans.
Unlike many of the communities inland, Prince Rupert and Port Edward are isolated at the end of the Highway, with the closest neighbor by land an hour and a half drive away. Neighbouring First Nations communities, meanwhile, are only accessible by boat or seaplane. The City reached out to local area representatives from Port Edward, local First Nations groups, and Provincial and Federal representatives regarding the proposal, and found many supporters for a localized solution.
Prince Rupert has an accessible Greyhound and VIA Rail schedule. Greyhound buses from Prince Rupert leave at 10 am each day, and the VIA Rail passenger train departs at 8 am 3 times a week – Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. These existing providers are available for planned trips.
In the Provincial survey conducted in Prince Rupert, the majority of survey respondents indicated that they would use the bus service to attend medical appointments, or to shop in Terrace.
Northern Health operates a Northern Connections bus service that will take residents of Prince Rupert to any medical appointments anywhere in BC for services that they are unable to attain in their home community. More information on the Northern Health Connections transportation service can be found at http://nhconnections.ca/.
Additional statements of support from other community leaders, which for the most part followed the same path as that of Prince Rupert, can be reviewed as part of the City's statement which you can read here.
More background on the range of services offered by the North Coast Transition Society can be found on their website and Facebook page.
There were no details included in Wednesday's notes related to what level of funding will be provided, or what the cost may be for contributions by the City and other local stakeholders to the NCTS program.
As well, no timeline was revealed at this time, as to any plans for expanding on the current services offered.
The City Council in Terrace recently discussed their plans for funding for Terrace area initiatives, approving 25,000 dollars towards a new BC Transit plan for the Northwest.
The announcement by the City and the area stakeholders would appear to put to rest for now any plans for a connecting bus service from Prince Rupert to communities to the east, that option had been suggested and supported by 82 percent of those responding to BC Transit consultations in Prince Rupert over the summer and fall.
|The findings from the BC Transit Consultation session in|
Prince Rupert released in October of this year
(click to expand)
Those consultations and the subsequent planning across the Northwest came as part of the Province of British Columbia's expanded Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan.
North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice has been a long time advocate for an expanded shuttle bus system along the Highway of Tears, as of yet, Ms. Rice has not offered any thoughts as to how she views the North Coast approach to the issue.
You can review some of her past contributions to the issue from our Legislature archive page.
Further inland, communities along Highway 16 are introducing shuttle bus initiatives to transport their residents from community to community along the route, some of the initiatives that are in motion in those communities of the Northwest can be reviewed below:
November 30 -- Smithers and Moricetown first to sign onto BC Transit Service Agreement
November 15 -- Terrace funding $25K towards new BC Transit plan
October 28 -- Moricetown to Smithers Transportation needs added to Highway 16 Action plan
October 11 -- Highway 16 Bus Network well received: BC Transit
September 2 -- Transit planners pleased with response to Highway 16 bus service plan
September 2 -- First Nations leader welcomes BC Transit plans for transportation in B.C.
September 1 -- B.C. Transit gathers input on Highway Transit Service
August 17 -- BC Transit putting consultations in place for Highway 16 shuttle Service
August 17 -- Community meetings Scheduled for New Highway 16 Bus Service
June 15 -- Community to Community transportation listed among the items in funding for Highway 16 plan NCR