BY BILL PHILLIPS
It’s been just over a month since the province launched the BC Bus North service and ridership is growing, says Erinn Pinkerton, BC Transit interim president and CEO.
“We’ve already travelled more than 27,000 passenger/kilometres,” she said during a media event showcasing the service in Prince George Wednesday. “Ridership is growing.”
She said there have been 400 service hours on the road. That translates to 300 passengers with more than 700 bookings for future trips.
“In the Prince George to Prince Rupert run we’ve taken about 20 people per trip, which is really good,” said Pinkerton. “The other three routes are a little slower with less than five per ride.”
BC Bus North was launched earlier this year when Greyhound successfully lobbied the B.C. Transportation Passenger Board to allow it to drop its service in northern B.C. When the service first launched, riders had to book and pay online. Pinkerton said that has changed and drivers can now accept debit cards.
“We set out to provide an interim service for the communities in this region,” she said. “It’s been a month and there’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re encouraged by the take up we’re getting so far. Ridership takes a while to grow.”
It is a coach service, which is a first for BC Transit. The service is provided by Pacific Western Transportation.
The service is an interim service, so BC Transit is keeping a close eye on the service and providing information to the province, which is looking for a more permanent service in the North.
“When we worked to put together BC Bus North, it was with the knowledge that Greyhound had pulled out from the North,” said Transportation Minister Claire Trevena.
Greyhound has since pulled out of western Canada completely.
“The North has serious concerns for access,” she said. “There are many vulnerable people who would have been left isolated without providing a transit system.”
BC Bus North covers from Prince George west to Prince Rupert and to Fort Nelson and Fort St. John and will operate for the next year, at a minimum.
“It is an interim service, but in that interim, it is an opportunity to assess what those needs are,” Trevena added. “We know there are shortfalls, but it’s an opportunity for us to find out what the needs are.”
Mayor Lyn Hall said bus service is crucial to the city and to the north as part of the overall transportation network.
“When we lost that service, from 100 Mile House north, it had a huge impact in many areas that we were trying to accomplish as municipalities,” he said. “To be able to have BC Bus North fill in and provide that opportunity was an important aspect of that as well.”
He said the North would “struggle” with the loss of bus service.
BC Transit is looking for public feedback on the routes: