By early 2017, residents along Highway 16 will have a public transport system to travel between communities, announced the B.C. minister of Transportation and Infrastructure in Smithers on Oct. 26.
BC Transit is approaching local governments with an updated plan later this year, after finalizing routes, schedules, and fares with on-site public feedback gathered from more than 20 communities this fall.
The proposed bus routes lie between Prince George and Burns Lake, Burns Lake and Smithers, Hazeltons area and Terrace, as well as Terrace and Prince Rupert.
As of Oct. 6, the adjusted Prince George-Burns Lake route that incorporates local input includes three stops in Vanderhoof: St. John Hospital, intersection of Burrard Avenue and Victoria Street, and Vanderhoof Co-op mall parking lot.
In Fraser Lake, the bus will stop by seniors centre Autumn Services, Chevron gas station, and the local health unit.
Transit shelters are proposed to be built at stops by Vanderhoof Co-op mall and Fraser Lake’s Chevron gas station.
Travelling one round trip per day, two to three days per week, the bus will also stop at Fort Fraser Community Hall, Nadleh Whut’en First Nation’s general store, Stellat’en First Nation’s Slenyah Store, Endako’s Manitoba Street by Highway 16, Tintagel, and nine locations in Burns Lake.
In Prince George, the bus will stop in six locations: downtown on Second Avenue by Dominion Street, Prince George Regional Hospital, Nicolson Exchange, Pine Centre Exchange, Westgate Exchange, and Beaverly Petro-Canada gas station.
According to feedback from 136 people at Vanderhoof’s fall fair, Fraser Lake’s community market, and Fort Fraser community hall, residents are requesting more days of service, connections to outlying communities such as Fort St. James, Nak’azdli First Nation, and Saik’uz First Nation.
Most survey participants also proposed more intervening time, up to five hours, Prince George; the current proposed bus arrives in Prince George at 10:25 a.m. and leaves at 2 p.m.
The new Highway 16 bus routes will be covered by $2.4 million over three years from the B.C. government and the federal government’s Indigenous and Northern Affairs as part of the Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan.
Developed as the governmental effort to improve safety along this 800-kilometre stretch of highway, in particular to provide better and safer transportation options for women and teenaged girls, the plan also includes a local community transportation program, $800,000 over three years, First Nations driver education program, $300,000 over three years, as well as webcams and transit shelters, $1.5 million over two years.