BC Bus North and the Northern Community Shuttle Program are receiving a $5 million fuel injection to keep the transportation programs running until 2026-2027, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice,announced on May 29.
The funding will contribute to developing and maintaining safe, reliable and affordable regional travel options for rural communities.
Rice, who is also secretary for rural health, said the funding is a significant step to prioritizing public transportation in rural communities and ensuring it is accessible to all.
Northern Development Initiative Trust will manage the funding to ensure the continuation of transit services, including existing shuttles from 16 rural communities connecting passengers to regional centres.
Rice, who made the announcement, on behalf of Transportation Minister Rob Flemming, at a press conference in Prince Rupert, said she has lived in the provincial north and a rural community for more than two decades. She said bridging the transportation divide to secure equitable access to healthcare services is momentous.
“Living in the North comes with unique challenges. The vast distances between our towns and villages can sometimes make it difficult for people to connect with essential services and the larger regional centers. That’s why road transportation is not just important, it is essential,” Rice said at a press conference in Prince Rupert.
She said when Greyhound ceased operations in 2018, a great transportation void was created and many passengers were left with no transportation to connect to other communities or regional centres.
“It created a gap that couldn’t be ignored,” she said. “Our government took decisive action because we understand the significance of reliable public transportation for rural residents.”
“[Reliable transportation] provides health equity, reduces health-care disparities and contributes to better health outcomes for people living in rural communities. That’s why we are extending BC Bus North and the Northern Community Shuttle Program and taking new measures to make long-distance rural travel more accessible for people in other areas of rural B.C.”
The Province is also expending an additional $250,000 to construct a user-friendly web-based planning and booking system for reservations and customer support to reduce barriers surrounding travel in the North. The new set-up will include multiple service providers and customers to book numerous travel choices using one platform.
Minister of Transportation Rob Flemming said he understands just how critical the BC Bus North and Northern Community Shuttle programs are to meet the needs of residents in northern communities who may have limited transportation options.
“Extending these northern programs will ensure people can continue to access safe, reliable and affordable travel options to connect to family and industry in larger centres.”
Rice said that while the cessation of Greyhound bus services initially affected only the north, now that the company has pulled out of “essentially the entire province,” transportation voids are affecting all British Columbians.
A further $2.5 million is being directed at the NDIT, the Island Coastal Economic Trust and the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior to conduct regional engagement and analysis of rural, regional inter-city transportation.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will use the community engagement and analysis results with other regions to develop the next steps for transportation options and solutions in rural communities.
“We want to hear directly from our residents about the challenges they face and the solutions they envision,” Rice said. “By engaging in meaningful dialogue, we can create transportation options that truly meet the needs of rural communities. A robust transportation network in rural areas does more than just connect people — it breathes life into our regional economies. It builds strong and sustainable communities and empowers every British Columbia to access the opportunities they deserve.”
K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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