Friday, July 20, 2018

Northwest BC models could offer options for Federal, Provincial governments on Greyhound line closures

The expansion of the BC North Bus concept could be a solution to the soon to be
total abandonment of bus service by Greyhound in British Columbia

As both the Federal and Provincial governments begin to explore their options when it comes to bus transportation options in Western Canada, a system that is currently in place across the Northwest may prove to be a helpful guide as to one approach that could be put in place.

Greyhound sprung the end of service surprise on the provinces of Western Canada earlier this month, following on the heels of their abandonment of the Northern BC routes which took effect in May of this year.

With the wider service cuts affecting all four western provinces to come by October 31st, the Federal Government has entered the conversation, with the Prime Minister tasking Transportation Minister Marc Garneau on Tuesday to review the situation, the Federal approach something that the NDP opposition had been pushing for in recent weeks.

The Federal government announcement of this week, revealed few details as to what they expect Mr. Garneau to deliver following his review, nor what the scope of his interest in the topic may be.

The province of British Columbia also has launched a process of review on the situation, with Transportation Minister Claire Trevena looking to sit down with private sector officials and those from local governments to explore how the BC transportation system may change to fill the void.

And that review for the Minister may already have a few solutions in place, with a handy template at the Minister's fingertips through two transportation initiatives launched in most of Northwestern British Columbia in the last year.

The first, the BC Transit Shuttle bus system that travels between communities from Terrace to Prince George.

(In December of 2016, The City of Prince Rupert and regional stakeholders chose not to participate in the BC Transit operated system that was introduced in 2017, a decision that they continue to hold to)

The string of community connector shuttles operated by BC Transit
that service runs from Terrace to Prince George.
(map from BC Transit click to enlarge)

The second initiative is the more recently introduced BC North Bus program, which is providing a one year test drive of limited intercity travel on a regular schedule. 

The BC North Bus is a twice a week service connecting Prince Rupert to Prince George, with stops at communities along the Highway 16 corridor.

The BC North Bus System map
(click to enlarge)

While some transportation observers note that the larger population areas may see private operators step in to provide for some of the inter city service currently provided by Greyhound, those smaller communities that perhaps don't generate enough revenue might make for areas of the province where the Northwest BC shuttle bus concept could be expanded to.

As well, the province may want to explore how the BC North Bus system is working to this point on the Northern route, with an eye towards expanding its footprint here on a permanent basis, as well as to take that service to those communities elsewhere in BC that are set to lose their Greyhound service at the end of October.

While the NDP government perhaps may have some hesitations in moving into a larger public transportation program across the province, at the moment, with so much uncertainty for many communities in BC, the services that the government offers to the Northwest sure look like a fairly solid blue print to address the situation that they have been handed.

Something that Minister Trevena may want to forward to Mr. Garneau, along with a suggestion for some joint funding to expand and enhance the program province wide.

The growing interest by both the Federal and provincial government into the ground transportation issues of the province have made for a fair bit of commentary and coverage from the media, some of which you can review below:

For more items of note related to transportation along the Highway 16  corridor see our archive page here.

Further background on provincial and federal issues can be found from our archive pages on our political blog D'Arcy McGee.

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