Northern Liberal MLAs are welcoming yesterday’s announcement of a northern B.C. service, but are concerned that a more long term solution remains uncertain.
“My colleagues and I offered suggestions to the transportation minister some time ago and I’m glad that some of our recommendations have been adopted,” said Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond, in a press release. “We have enormous transportation challenges trying to connect distant communities and a more permanent solution is required.”
The new service, called BC Bus North, will begin providing service on June 4, just days after Greyhound discontinues the majority of its northern bus routes on June 1. Earlier this year the Passenger Transportation Board granted Greyhound’s request to cancel service in northern B.C., against the wishes of northern communities and the provincial government.
BC Bus North’s service will include two round-trips per week, between Prince Rupert and Prince George, Prince George and Valemount, and Prince George to Dawson Creek/Fort St. John. Additionally, BC Bus North will offer one round-trip per week from Fort Nelson to Dawson Creek/Fort St. John.
“BC Bus North will only accept credit cards for payments,” said Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. “This will be a problem for low income individuals who typically have no access to credit and have no other transportation alternatives. Residents of Kitimat also feel left out with no scheduled stops.”
BC Bus North will be operated by Pacific Western Transportation using four highway coaches, equipped with luggage and washroom facilities.
“Not everyone in remote and northern communities have access to the Internet to make bookings as this service requires,” said Peace River North MLA Dan Davies. “Many people in remote areas who need a convenient form of travel will have no way to make a reservation.”
“Safety is the primary concern in my mind,” says Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris. “People need access to reliable and frequent public transportation and I am concerned a temporary solution is simply not a long term answer.”
The province will fund BC Bus North for 12 months, during which time government will work with local leaders to evaluate the demand for this new service, and develop a long-term transportation solution that works for people in this part of the province.
The service will be affordable with one-way fares being either $35 or $45, per route, depending on how far people are travelling.
“There are parts of my riding that will have limited service once a week or no service at all,” said Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier. “If this is just a stop-gap measure, I am worried that the government may not have a sustainable plan at all for the future.”
“The $2 million cost to BC Transit may not be recouped through other transit fares,” said Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad. “The government does not appear to have much support for a real transportation solution that will benefit Northern and rural B.C.”