Two organizations in Northeast B.C have received funding from the province to expand community shuttle services in Chetwynd, Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson.
As part of the $2.8 million announcement on Thursday, $150,000 went to the Northern Rockies Senior Society, and the Nawican Friendship Centre received $200,000. The ministry of transportation says the grants were awarded earlier this month.
“This funding will ensure people in rural and remote communities in B.C.’s North continue to have access to affordable public transportation,” said Jennifer Rice, MLA for North Coast, on behalf of Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “The long distances between small, isolated communities in the North underscore importance of maintaining safe, reliable bus services in this part of the province.”
Overall, 18 remote and Indigenous communities throughout northern B.C. received a portion of the funding for community-led transportation support and will replace the existing community transportation grant program effective Friday.
The community shuttle funding program was announced in November to replace the community transportation grant program, ending on March 31st and will be administered by Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT).
The replacement was announced after a report from the Office of the Auditor General, stating Northern B.C. is still without a long-term transportation plan three years after Greyhound stopped serving the region.
BC Bus North was announced in June 2018 as a temporary service with a 12-month life span while the ministry came up with a plan for the long-term. The service is still operating, and its funding has been extended three times, according to the report.
A gap in service has been evident for three years as B.C. Bus North only took over just under half of Greyhound’s routes, reaching 35 of 62 stops. The frequency in which busses run has gone down as well, dropping to one or two trips a week instead of daily as was common on Greyhound routes.
“The expansion of the community shuttle bus program is welcome news for communities that previously did not have service,” said Nathan Cullen, MLA for Stikine.
“Rural and remote communities throughout northern B.C. continue to face challenges related to the loss of Greyhound bus service in the region. This funding highlights our government’s ongoing commitment to ensure these communities have access to affordable transportation options.”
The new funding is a part of a $7.9-million Safe Restart grant provided last year by the federal and provincial governments to help address the need for public transportation in Northern B.C.