Fran Yanor, The Goat Feb 25, 2021

“In an ideal world, we would have public transportation serving rural communities in such a way that people can access the services that they need outside of their communities,” said Ed Staples, president of BC Rural Health Network. (Nienke Klaver)

[Excerpts] Advocates behind a campaign for province-wide public transit say it would increase safety and access in underserved rural communities, while others recommend improving competitiveness so the private sector steps up.

“There have to be substantive investments made by government all across the province,” said Interim BC Liberal Leader Shirley Bond. “But there also needs to be a climate in British Columbia where we have the private sector looking at filling some of those gaps, as well.”

In 2018, Greyhound cancelled bus routes across the province citing low ridership and reduced profitability, the provincial government opened the routes up for bids, and all but two are now covered by private operators, according to a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesperson.

One remaining gap is the former Greyhound route from Kamloops, through Valemount and Jasper, and into Edmonton.

“If it’s not a medical issue, you can’t go to Kamloops or Vancouver or anywhere points south for any sort of pleasure or business, unless you drive,” said Barb Shepherd, a winter bus rider and advocate for increased bus service through Valemount. “Even twice a week like the one going to Prince George would be fine.”

When Greyhound cancelled its B.C. routes, the provincial government formed BC Bus North to connect regional centres, including Valemount, Prince George, Smithers, Prince Rupert, Mackenzie, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John and Fort Nelson.

“A lot of the rest of the province was left with a kind of a piecemeal bunch of routes that don’t necessarily work together and don’t run very often,” said Maryann Abbs, one of the volunteers behind the Let’s Ride! campaign to make public transit B.C.-wide.

“It is far and away the number one thing we’re trying to improve on in the province,” said Ed Staples, president of the B.C. Rural Health Network, a collective of communities advocating for improved rural health care delivery.

In a survey of British Columbians last year by UBC’s Centre for Rural Health Research, rural residents spent an average of $777 in transportation costs to access healthcare services outside their home communities for their most recent health issue.

“For people living rural, to be able to access the care that they need, many have to rely on transportation that they can’t provide for themselves,” said Staples. “Even if they can provide transportation, sometimes it’s a huge inconvenience.”

To read the full article, click on: BC-wide transit and business incentives could fill rural transport gaps