By Flavio NienowLakes District News
The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) adopted a bylaw last week to establish a bus service between Burns Lake to Smithers and Burns Lake to Prince George.
“A real significant milestone got passed this afternoon and it represents a whole lot of work by a whole lot of people,” said Silas Brownsey, executive director for B.C’s transit and Crown agency programs, to the RDBN board on March 2, 2017.
The Hwy. 16 action plan is a $5-million plan designed to alleviate hitch-hiking along the so-called Highway of Tears by providing a low-cost bus service along the highway corridor.
With the adoption of the bylaw, the plan now enters its operational phase and is one step closer to implementation.
“The adoption of this bylaw will allow us to move forward,” explained B.C. Transit’s regional manager Chris Fudge. “It’s a big step for us.”
With the go-ahead from the regional district, B.C. Transit will now focus on operational aspects such as marketing.
“The marketing campaign has to be very comprehensive, very collaborative; if we do that, we’re certainly set up for success,” said Fudge. “We’ll work closely with the regional district on those operational items and there will be clear communication with this table.”
Although the original timeline was to have the first buses on the road by December 2016, RDBN directors say they are happy with the speed of the process.
“Local and especially regional governments have a significantly different platform that they work on, and when you look at this table, you look at 15 incredibly diverse areas in a very geographically challenged region,” said Bill Miller, Director of Electoral Area B (Burns Lake rural). “So I think we managed to get through this in quite an impressive timeline.”
Although there are no clear dates for the start of services, the current expectation is that buses will start operating this spring.
“Even with the timeline we’re on, it’s been quite an expedited process,” said Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach.
Miller added that the adoption of the bylaw is not final step towards the implementation of the plan.
“Yes, we got the buses going, but the next piece is that we have to connect all of our communities to Hwy. 16.”