Public transportation in the north is getting a jump start with more than $3 million being made available to support transportation in rural and remote communities, Northern Development Initiative announced on Nov. 15.
The part of $7.9 million in a provincial Restart Grant is available to local governments, First Nations, community organizations, non-profits groups and small to medium-sized businesses to help applicants with the costs of introducing, expanding or continuing passenger transportation services in the region for up to three years.
However, Northern B.C. communities need to act soon if they want to take advantage of the newly available funding for community shuttle buses because Dec. 23, is the deadline to apply.
The funding is available for ground transportation and excludes other mediums such as marine or air transport.
“By providing funding to Northern Passenger Transportation Services, our Government is ensuring that Northerners have the ability to access critical services and safely travel between communities both short-distance and long-distance. This announced funding will ensure a safe and reliable link exists between Prince Rupert, Terrace, and the rest of North,” Jennifer Rice, North Coast MLA, told The Northern View.
Northern Development Initiative Trust Director of Communications, Holly Plato said, while the new funding is now out there and available, communities still need to apply for it to be able to see any of its benefits.
Applicants who have previously received community shuttle bus funding can seek a maximum of $100,000 for capital costs and a maximum of $150,000 for operating costs. Total funding per applicant is capped at $200,000, Plato said.
“We can’t apply for them. It’s a matter of taking the opportunity and putting together an application form that can come to us and hopefully benefit the people that need it the most because we do realize there is a need out there,” she said, adding it comes down to what services are available and who is available to apply.
“We have no control over what’s going to happen [with the funding]. We hope that people will take initiative if they are running a not-for-profit service, or even a for-profit service, to take advantage and apply for the funding,” Plato said.
“We travelled for two solid weeks around the province, all the way up to Stewart. We travelled everywhere and we had public consultations. We stood out on street corners and talked to people and asked what they needed and what they wanted — and based on that information is how we developed the program,” Plato said.
“We talked to cab drivers, we talked to shuttle drivers, we talked to people who are walking, people who are driving — we talked to everybody. So, it was an exhaustive process, but we wanted to make sure that when we develop the program that it was based on what we heard from the public,” she said. “We’re really hoping that those people that we talked to, and the service providers that we talked to, will take advantage since we tried to cater the program to the feedback we got when we were travelling.”
The new funding will come in two phases; a short-term regional centre focus and a long-term long-distance focus.
For the rest of 2021 the NDIT will concentrate on providing dollars to services for inter-community or shuttle services to communities less than 300 km apart. In 2022, the focus will be on funding long-distance transport to communities more than 300 km apart.
Those wishing to apply can visit the program’s webpage and must send completed application forms to email@example.com by 5 p.m. on Dec. 23. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.
Norman Galimski | Journalist
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