One year into the Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan implementation, approximately 5,000 people have used BC Transit’s new, expanded transit service to travel between northern communities safely, reliably and affordably.
“People in northern B.C. in particular, women and teenaged girls – are benefiting from these new transportation services, knowing there is a safe link to get between communities,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena. “As minister, I’m proud to see how the increase in bus service, community vehicles and other aspects of the plan have come together and provided a significant boost to safe and reliable travel for people in northern B.C.”
The first inter-community transit service for the Highway 16 routes started on Jan. 30, 2017, connecting Smithers and Moricetown in 30 minutes. Since then, several other new inter-community routes have launched, connecting Burns Lake and Prince George, Burns Lake and Smithers, and Terrace and the Hazeltons. In addition, enhancements have been made to the existing Hazelton-to-Smithers route.
The new bus services provide an affordable way to travel between communities. The one-way fare is $2.75 for the Smithers-Moricetown route, and the one-way fare is $5 per segment for the other routes. The Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine offers discounts for youth and seniors on the new Hazeltons-Terrace route.
“Thousands of people are benefiting from the Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan, which was developed in close consultation with First Nations and local governments,” said Doug Donaldson, MLA for Stikine. “The implementation of the plan gives safe and affordable transportation options for B.C.’s northern communities located along the Highway 16 corridor. This is meaningful transportation service to the people in the North.”
“The success of the new and enhanced transit services along Highway 16 would not have been possible without the support and hard work of the Province of B.C., First Nations, our local government partners and community groups,” said Manuel Achadinha, BC Transit president and chief executive officer. “I look forward to continuing to work with our partners to connect people and communities along Highway 16.”
The new community-vehicle program has also been successful with high ridership numbers. Since the summer, more than 9,000 passengers have used the new community-vehicle services. Over 7,000 of these are from the shuttle service between Vanderhoof and the Saik’uz community, which carries on average 43 passengers a day.
“The community-vehicle program has had a very positive impact in both Vanderhoof and Saik'uz,” said Reg Mueller, Deputy Tribal Chief, Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and Advisory Council member. “With the community vehicles providing reliable transport, this is providing valuable access to employment and education opportunities.”
“The community-vehicle program is a great partnership and has changed our communities for the better,” said Gerry Thiessen, mayor of the District of Vanderhoof. “The program has made quick and reliable access between Saik’uz and Vanderhoof for medical appointments, shopping and recreation, and it is also a great asset for our seniors who require transportation that they know they can count on.”
The First Nations driver-education program has been successfully implemented, with driver education and training being offered in communities throughout the corridor. Approximately 100 people have received training from the program so far, and the ministry anticipates another 200-plus students will be trained in 2018.
For the highway infrastructure component of the plan, seven new webcams have been installed and activated so far, with more webcams to be installed and activated in the near future. The webcams help to increase the safety and visibility of pedestrians and motorists along Highway 16. To support the new transit services, the ministry has installed 15 new all-weather bus shelters, and to support the community vehicle program, five traveller shelters have been installed.
A backgrounder follows.
Media RelationsGovernment Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
- On the BC Transit route connecting Smithers and Moricetown, which started on Jan. 30, 2017, approximately 90 people use this service each month.
- On the BC Transit route connecting Burns Lake and Prince George, which started on June 19, 2017, approximately 300 people use this service each month.
- On the BC Transit route connecting Burns Lake and Smithers, which started on June 19, 2017, approximately 100 people use this service each month.
- On the BC Transit route connecting Terrace and the Hazeltons, which started on Nov. 20, 2017, approximately 240 people used this service in its first full month.
- On the BC Transit route connecting Smithers and the Hazeltons, which increased service on Nov. 20, 2017, approximately 355 people used this service in its first full month.
- Canada’s Public Transit Infrastructure Fund has helped with the purchase of new buses for the Highway 16 routes. The vehicles will be arriving and put into service later this year.
- Twelve communities and organizations have received grants for community vehicles since March 2017.
- These grants are primarily for First Nations communities and are worth $2 million for the purchase ($750,000) and three years of operation ($1.2 million).
- Of these grant recipients:
- four are up and running with vehicles (such as a van, mini-van, SUV, or a small bus) being used to transport people to jobs, school, appointments, shopping, and connecting with family and friends;
- three are planning to start services in the coming weeks; and
- the remaining five plan to start services in the coming months.
First Nations Driver Education Program:
- The First Nations Driver Education Program is being delivered by Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS). CSFS was awarded this contract in October 2016, after an RFP process.
- Driving instructors provide training to First Nations community members to boost the number of Class 4 and Class 5 drivers. This includes initial training for Class 7 (learners and new drivers) to place students into the Graduated Licensing Program.
- This training is supporting the community vehicle program by enabling First Nations community members to operate the community transportation service, and can lead to other good-paying jobs in the transportation sector, such as bus drivers, taxi drivers and ambulance drivers.
Webcams and transit shelters:
- The ministry has installed seven new web cameras to date: Highway 27 at Hill Street/Greenview Street, Fort St. James, Highway 16 in Burns Lake at North Francois Highway, Highway 16 in Telkwa at Hankin Road, Highway 16 at Nautley Road in Fort George - Nechako, Highway 16 at Highway 27 in Fort George, Highway 16 at Main Street in Smithers, Highway 16 at Stella Road in Fraser Lake.
- In the next few months, five more new web cameras will be installed: Highway 16 at Sob Lake Road, near Vanderhoof, Highway 16 at Butler Avenue, Houston, Highway 16 at North Nadina Avenue, Houston, Highway 16 at Toronto Street, Smithers, Highway 16 at Beaver Road, Moricetown.
- The ministry has installed 15 all-weather bus shelters to date (Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Burns Lake, Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Topley, Houston (two), Smithers, Moricetown, Hagwilget, Kispiox, Gitwangak, Gitaus, Kitsumkalum and Kitimat). Shelters are to be installed in Terrace and Prince George this spring.
- In addition, five traveller shelters have been installed to support the community-vehicle grant program (Vanderhoof, Saik’uz First Nation, Binche, Granisle and Kitwanga). Fraser Lake will receive a traveller shelter this spring.
Collaboration to increase interconnectivity:
- The collaboration working group is continuing to review existing schedules against new transportation services being offered, including the new community vehicles, to maximize transportation access and opportunities.
- The ministry, Northern Health Authority (NHA) and First Nations Health Authority are using integrated GIS mapping looking at medical transportation needs and patterns, to better co-ordinate and maximize medical transport services for people in First Nations communities.
- NHA has confirmed that 100% of its drivers for the Northern Health Connections bus have completed the Indigenous cultural competency training offered by the Provincial Health Services Authority.
To learn more about the Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan, go to: www.gov.bc.ca/highway16actionplan