The BC Bus North funding is extended to permit the transportation service to run through until March 31, 2022 to 39 communities across Northern B.C. announced the Ministry of Transportation on March 29. (B.C. Transit photo)

The BC Bus North funding is extended to permit the transportation service to run through until March 31, 2022 to 39 communities across Northern B.C. announced the Ministry of Transportation on March 29. (B.C. Transit photo)

BC Bus North to extend service to 2022

Northern BC bus service has provided more than 13,000 rides since June 2018

The BC Bus North service has been extended to March 31, 2022, to provide safe and reliable transportation to northern residents across the province, announced the Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming on March 29.

The more $1.6 million in one-time-funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada split equally with the province will ensure the extension of the inter-city service for a further 12 months.

Operating costs, net of fare revenue are estimated to be $3.4 million from Sept. 2019 through to March 2022.

The current funding expiration was looming on March 31 for the transportation that provides service to 39 communities across the provincial north.

Fleming said in a joint press conference with North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice that many people in the north do not have their own personal vehicles and rely on public transportation to get from community to community.

“The clear message we’ve heard is that this long haul transportation service is a lifeline for many people in the north,” Fleming said. “… BC Bus North gives people in northern BC an affordable, safe and reliable option to travel longer distances.

It has provided an essential service for those in the north, making it possible for residents in small, isolated rural communities to remain connected, he said.

BC Bus North launched in June 2018 and now runs twice-weekly transportation among four routes with round trips from Prince Rupert to Prince George, north to Fort Nelson and south to Valemount.

Since its inception, more than 13,000 rides to December 2020 have been provided. More than 14 per cent or 1820 of those numbers were riders between Prince Rupert and Terrace.

“People use this service to visit friends and family to pursue job opportunities, educational opportunities, and for critically important appointments in their lives,” the minister said.

“As all of you will know, when Greyhound decided to pull out of Northern BC in 2018 it put many people in a very difficult position. We know that in Northern BC we have unique transportation needs unlike any other part of the province due to the remote geography, the vast distances between communities, not to mention the severe winter weather that is known to be experienced by Northerners,” Fleming said.

Rice said many locations along Hwy 16 are vulnerable communities and improvements to transportation have been a long time coming with the Highway of Tears symposium recommending in 2006 that improvements be made, and in 2012 Commissioner Wally Oppal recommended in his Missing and Murdered Indigenous Womens’ report that urgent action be taken to improve public transportation option along the route.

“For decades women have gone missing along this highway, many of them Aboriginal women. In B.C. we’ve had many more unsolved murdered and missing women compared to other provinces in Canada,” Rice said.

“Since forming government in 2017, I have to say that we’ve made quite a few improvements along Highway 16, with transportation options being more plentiful,” she said

Giving examples, Rice spoke of expanding ridership in the Northern Health Connections bus, expanding the criteria for using the bus, affordable transportation for seniors, as well as community bussing grants and BC Transit inter-community bus service.