The passenger bus service that the Northern Health Authority uses to take patients for out-of-town non-emergency appointments has seen another year of increased ridership.
Reina Pharness, the regional manager of external business contracts for Northern Health, said that ridership on Northern Health Connections, overall, has gone up 14 per cent.
Pharness said she couldn’t pinpoint ridership numbers specifically for Smithers patients but could do it by route.
She said that the Prince Rupert to Prince George route saw 3,947 riders in 2011. The Burns Lake to Terrace route saw 336 riders. Those routes would include riders from and to Smithers.
The bus from Burns Lake to Terrace runs once a week, while the Prince Rupert to Prince George route runs three times a week.
The bus also takes riders from the north to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver.
The increase in ridership, suggested Pharness, is that knowledge about the service is growing.
“The people that use it then go on to tell their friends,” she said. “People are becoming more familiar with the service.”
Most stops for the bus are at a hospital or health centre. Outside of the Northern Health region, the bus will stop for breaks at gas stations and rest stops where Interior Health patients are able to join the ride.
She said that the Connections service is a unique service. Interior Health does have agreements with BC Transit, she said, but the service isn’t as comprehensive as the service Northern Health offers.
Information on the Connections schedule can be found online at northernhealth.ca/nhconnections or through phone at 1-888-647-4997.