Affordable accessible travel challenge
How it began:
Situation described is fictitious and is not intended to describe any real situation faced by a real individual…Travel safe!
Safe, accessible intercity travel has not always been available in Northern BC. It was raining that evening as she stuck out her thumb to an approaching car on the lonely, low volume highway between Burns Lake and Prince George BC, where she was headed. It was that period in the summer of 1971 when the wild fronteer was just opening up. She came from a home in a smaller community just west of Burns Lk. The car races past and she sighs as she tightened up her jacket against the wind and rain thinking about her journey. She anticipated a life in the city, perhaps about a person she admired that was living there. She was deep in thought when a car finally stopped. A door opened and she jumped into the dry passenger seat. A conversation began between the driver and the lady, now assured of a ride. She was feeling comfortable as she relaxed and disappeared into the night as the miles rolled past.
The plot thickens…
She never arrived in Prince George. Her friends called her home after a few days of waiting, found that she had departed and had been seen hitchhiking on the night it happened. Someone talked to her in Vanderhoof, she had been on her way. Her ride had stopped for gas, but the person did not see the car or the driver.Back then, closed circuit cameras did not exist. A search started, she was officially missing and the traveler became one of the reasons Highway 16 West of Prince George to Prince Rupert BC became internationally known as the Highway of Tears. This scenario has happened many times, not just along this highway. Thanks to the remoteness of the land and the adventurous nature of the younger inhabitants, it has held a record number of murders and disappearances.
Talks were held…
For well over a decade First Nation’s people from many of the communities along Highway 16 (along with people of all nationalities) had gone missing or had been found murdered along the highway. This upset all the people of the land. One of the reasons people of all nationalities realized was that affordable accessible transportation was non existent. The First Nation’s people were the first to bring that to the discussion table. “Younger folks without vehicles or mega bucks to travel on Greyhound must hitchhike to explore their expanding world and perhaps find education and employment. They go to the city or neighboring communities…” was likely said around the table. It was the long and short of the entire discussion.
Grocery stores close
Folks of all nationalities without vehicles in some of the communities faced another challenge. Greyhound’s shrinking runs along that route had abandoned them almost a decade ago. Without a vehicle, they were stuck in town. Independent intercity transport was impossible and barely affordable if Greyhound was even available. They needed transportation to other communities to shop as some local grocery stores had closed as well, the entire community was without fresh basic groceries. While working with the diverse groups of citizens looking at all the challenges the north provides, BC Transit got interested in finding a way to provide affordable and accessible intercity transportation to connect all the communities between Prince George and Prince Rupert.
Down Highway 16, Greyhound had thinned their passenger runs already. So much in recent years, many communities were already abandoned in all directions out of Prince George. Plus Greyhound Passenger service appeared to refuse to comply with accessible standards put out by Transport Canada concerning intercity transportation. Meh. In my humble opinion, BC Transit needs to expand operations in every direction, connect every BC community. They should relocate their main operations center here to the official hub of the province. Greyhound should stick to shipping only in our province! I envision other provinces following that model for active transportation connecting provincial networks. The goal of that would be to connect provincial networks and provide a public funded, national network to connect the nation. That could someday connect North America and the globe after that!
Late in 2015, the province announced major funding to develop a public transit system that had the goal of connecting Prince George to Prince Rupert, connecting the communities between along Highway 16 and it’s connecting roads. It would take a financial commitment from the communities to become a reality. A federal grant helped as well. The driver staff would be trained from the First Nation Communities and the busses would run on 3 day rotations to return to the stops, scattered in communities along the planned route.
Early summer 2017 saw that plan unfold by connecting Prince George to the stop in Burns Lake which connected to the rest of the chain to Prince Rupert. By then, the communities between the 2 “Prince” communities on the Highway and several that were adjacent, who are away a short distance on connecting highways bought in and partnered with BC Transit. It began growing in Prince Rupert, late 2015 with an existing run to Kitimat which connected to the runs being developed towards Prince George. The remote communities now are serviced by a “shuttle” to the main route. As of 2017, the line went west from Prince George. There is a stop at 7th Ave and Dominion Street in Prince George, It is many person’s way home on the schedule according to the link below.
We’re still waiting for final reports on whether BC Transit will fund this transportation system past the initial trial phase. For now, the link below shows the run exiting and arriving here in Prince George. As well in 2017, Greyhound Canada announced plans to phase out passenger service in Northern BC in all directions from Prince George. It’s their major hub in the province and shipping would be unaffected.
A short survey:
You might recall, I have another survey below this post you could fill out as well… It’s linked here, tyia!