Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Highway 16 transit plan continues to roll out across parts of Northwest

The new BC Transit services along
Highway 16 have been well received
by participating communities
While the new regional community bus project in the Northwest still won't be travelling west of the Terrace city limits, the transportation initiative that began to take shape last year is expanding its service to points east of that city.

This week another expansion of the service was announced adding yet more communities to the route and making for increased frequency to the schedule that is set to connect residents between Terrace and the Hazeltons.

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena announced the new service on Monday, highlighting how the service will provide an important link between communities and continues to offer safe links for those that are travelling the Highway 16 corridor.

“These buses will provide a safe, efficient and affordable way to travel between communities as part of our broader strategy of the Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan. This is especially important for women and teenaged girls who are travelling and are in need of a safe link between neighbouring communities,”  ..“This transit service will connect people who are traveling between Terrace, the Hazeltons and Kispiox, for visiting family and friends, appointments and activities.”

The Terrace to Hazelton link becomes the fourth such system put in place to connect Northwest communities, previously service was introduced between Smithers, Burns Lake and Prince George as well as between Smithers and Moricetown.

Doug Donaldson who represents the eastern side of the new route observed how it's an important addition to the region and one that is long overdue.

“This transit service on a portion of Highway 16 should have been in place years ago,”  ... “For the people of the Stikine, this is an extremely important service, as it’s all about safety, affordability and peace of mind. This transit service will help northern communities and families right now and into the future.”

The new service will run three days per week and connect Kispiox, Gitsegukla and Gitwangak with Terrace, BC Transit will begin the process of advertising the schedule in early November.

The full announcement related to the Terrace leg of the Highway Transportation plan can be reviewed here.

Some of the bench marks found so far for the Highway 16 service can be examined here.

The existing services have become so popular that, passengers have at times been left at the bus stop owing to full capacity of the current fleet, a situation which has BC Transit planning for larger buses for some of the long distance routes that have been introduced.

BC Transit has also released a background video that highlights some of the regional cooperation found along the Highway 16 corridor as the service has been introduced from community to community.

The key take away from the launch of the Highway 16 service is the nature of cooperation that is being found among the various levels of government and community groups as the buses begin to transit the corridor.

"It's an incredible accomplishment when you've brought more than twenty partners together on a single purpose, a single cause. And each had to make their own little sacrifice to make today happen" --Kevin Schubert Director Regional Transit Systems on the Highway 16 Transportation initiative

"It's one of the first times really on a scale like this, that this has happened, we all had to get on the same page as it were, to make this happen, this project is about regional cooperation." -- Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach, noting the regional cooperation required to bring the plan to life

Some notes on the new and existing transit options on the Highway 16 corridor can be reviewed below:

New transit service to connect Terrace with the Hazelton area
Larger buses planned for Highway 16 bus system
BC Transit: Highway 16 bus ridership 'better than expected'
BC Transit makes improvements to its bus schedule
Terrace revved up for public transportation upgrade
BC Transit to look at larger buses for Highway 16 route
Changes to Smithers and District Transit Service start this week
Service improvements on its way for the Smithers Regional Transit System
Bigger buses coming to meet the demand on Highway of Tears
Bus service along Highway 16 to be extended to Terrace
City of Prince George, RD sign transit agreement
New BC Transit route to be added to Highway 16 West (video)
BC Transit bringing in Bigger Buses for Highway 16 routes (video)

The nature of the expanding service in the Northwest still has one large gap, that being any form of regular connection, other than Greyhound and Via Rail service to the North Coast.

As we have noted in the past, the City of Prince Rupert and other regional stakeholders around the North Coast have chosen to take a different approach to transportation concerns in the area, with the Prince Rupert based North Coast Transition Society providing for options for those who identify themselves at risk.

The local politicians and groups to this point still remain hesitant at adopting the community to community approach that has been built across much of the rest of the Highway 16 corridor.

Back in January, the province had noted that they were still hopeful that the North Coast would join the rest of the corridor in taking part in the project, which sees the provincial government fund two thirds of the cost, while Regional and municipal stakeholders take on the remaining cost.

The prospect of the loss of Greyhound service across northern BC which has evolved over the last few months, may give the North Coast politicians cause to review their level of interest in the BC Transit initiative.

A review that may be required depending on the outcome of the current process underway related to a request by Greyhound to end its intercity service in Northern BC.

Locally, Prince Rupert's Transition Society has taken the lead in response to the potential end of service.

The City of Prince Rupert has also sent a letter of concern to the transportation provider, with Mayor Lee Brain noting that the city is monitoring that issue closely.

Still, heading towards November, Prince Rupert Council members have not held a public discussion in Council on the topic of transportation in the region and whether it may be time for Prince Rupert and the surrounding area to consider signing on with the larger transportation plan currently being developed across the Highway 16 corridor.

Watching the growing number of announcements of new services to provide for safe and reliable transportation for the communities of the corridor, must be a frustrating experience for North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice.

When she was in opposition, Ms. Rice made the call for just such a transportation option one of her frequent topics for discussion in the Legislation.

Now that the NDP government is expanding the program, moving it forward at an ever quickening pace, Ms. Rice is finding that from the local decision to go with a different path, her own riding is not able to share in the flow of government funding.

The local decisions from the stakeholders of the region have also appeared to limit her engagement on the transportation theme in recent months.

With the MLA having had less to say on the need for better transportation options along the Highway 16 corridor and for now, seemingly unable to deliver the province's Transportation plan to her own corner of the province.

A look at more background on the transportation issues of the Northwest can be reviewed on our archive page here.

More items of note from the Legislature can be round on our Legislature archive feature.

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