BC Bus North was the subject of three recommendations made in an auditor general’s report released on Nov. 16 and concluded that improvements are necessary to the essential service linking communities across the North from Prince Rupert to Prince George and beyond.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Transportation welcomed the report’s findings and recommendations, Jennifer Rice, North Coast MLA, told The Northern View, on Nov. 17.
“Following Greyhound’s service cuts in 2018, the province launched BC Bus North, an interim long-haul bus service connecting communities such as Prince Rupert,” Rice said. “Due to the unique nature of the north and the distances between communities it is important that people have access to intercity bus services.”
The auditor general’s report detailed findings the government-run BC Bus North served only 56 per cent of the stops Greyhound previously covered. Buses ran the routes once to twice per week at a lower cost than the private company previously charged.
The findings recommended the ministry ensure it receives and reviews monitoring reports as set out in agreements, ensures that the plan for province-wide ground transportation includes options for sustainable solutions in northern B.C. and ensures broad engagement with northern communities as part of planning for sustainable ground transportation solutions.
“I’ve always said that while BC Bus North provides a vital service to folks across the region, it is only an interim, band-aid solution to the deeper problems with inter-city transport in the North. We need the federal government engaged on developing a long-term solution to reconnect rural communities,” Taylor Bachrach, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP, told The Northern View.
Bachrach has called for the creation of a public, inter-city bus service at the federal level to provide frequent and reliable bus service across the country.
It is important to note the audit took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rice said.
“The ministry continues to explore opportunities for better integrated, reliable transportation services throughout the province,” Rice said. “Northern Development Initiative Trust is engaging with communities in rural and remote areas to develop a grant program to support northern transportation services.”
“The ministry will schedule regular meetings with BC Transit and Northern Development Initiative Trust to receive and discuss reports as required by agreements with each of these organizations,” she said.
In March 2021, B.C. and Canada provided $7.9 million to Northern Development Initiative Trust to support the ongoing need for public transportation in the North, Rice said.
“After consulting with communities across the North, NDIT allocated $3 million of this funding to enhance the ministry’s successful community shuttle bus program in northern B.C.”
The current BC Bus North Service is set to expire on March 31, 2022.
Norman Galimski | Journalist
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