A SOCIAL services agency in Terrace and a local government in the Nass Valley are two of 12 groups in the region to get money from the provincial government to buy and maintain buses for community use.
The Kermode Friendship Centre here and the Gingolx Village Government in the Nass Valley will each buy a bus under the provincial government’s plan to improve transportation services along Hwy16 and to rural communities north and south of the route.
Cal Albright of the Kermode Friendship Centre said it’ll be buying a 24-passenger bus to transport youngsters to and from its day care centre which is planned to open in spring 2018.
But the centre is also proposing another use for the vehicle – providing transit service to Kitselas and Kitsumkalum on a weekend day when there isn’t operation of the current Monday to Friday service operated through BC Transit under the umbrella of the Kitimat-Stikine regional district.
“We’ve put the feelers out for that,” said Albright.
Other potential uses include taking groups of elders and others on trips within the region.
“We were pretty excited our application was accepted,” said Albright.
Also excited is Roberta Stewart, the chief executive officer of the Gingolx Village Government in the Nass Valley, because it means a much older vehicle can be replaced.
“We’re pretty remote, a three-hour drive to Terrace,” said Stewart of Gingolx located on the far western end of the Nass Valley.
The current Gingolx bus came into service in early 2009 and is at the end of its useful life, she noted.
The Gingolx bus will be used for a variety of purposes with the village government intending on using it to take people with medical appointments to Terrace on Fridays, the one weekday the medical bus belonging to the Nisga’a Valley Health Authority doesn’t operate.
And the 28-passenger bus will also be equipped to handle wheelchairs, something the current one is not.
“For our elders, that’s pretty important,” said Stewart.
As with the Kermode bus, the Gingolx one will also be available for group excursions.
Reliable transport is needed so that people from the Nass Valley can come to Terrace to buy groceries, Stewart noted.
Stewart added that the discussions will start with other Nass Valley villages so as to transport people from those villages to Terrace also.
While other villages in the Nass Valley have their own buses, there is no overall route, timing or other coordination.
Both Stewart and Albright said the provincial money not only means buses can be bought but ensures support for ongoing maintenance and operations.
“Fuel is expensive and the buses will need to be maintained,” said Stewart.
The current Gingolx bus is called the Spirit of Gingolx but a name for the new one will depend upon the decision of elders and others in the village.
That bus came into service following the completion of a road connecting Gingolx with the rest of the Nass Valley.
All told, the province is providing $752,000 to buy vehicles for the 12 groups and $1.2 million over three years for operations and maintenance.
The money is part of a wide-ranging provincial program to increase transit options for people along Hwy16 from Prince Rupert to Prince George.
An original budget of $5 million over three years has now been increased to $6.4 million with $1 million of the amount coming from the federal government.
The larger portion of the provincial program is meant to increase transit along Hwy16.
That’s been partially successful for communities along Hwy16 to the east but a plan for transit service between Prince Rupert and Terrace was shelved when the City of Prince Rupert declined to participate.
It instead has chosen to help finance a program providing emergency travel assistance to women and children who need to leave Prince Rupert.
This new provincial program for the north also includes driver training, new transit shelters and web cams. The community vehicle portion of the program will pay up to 70 per cent or more based on individual need of both the purchase price of a vehicle and its operation including wages if required, gas, insurance and maintenance.