My colleagues and I welcomed a recent announcement by the government that BC Bus North would replace passenger service previously offered by Greyhound. MLAs from the north had been leaning on the government pretty hard to come up with some kind of solution ever since Greyhound said it planned to discontinue service earlier this year.
When BC Bus North was initially rolled out, customers were told they could only use credit cards to book a trip. Thankfully the government quickly backed down when my fellow MLAs and I sent a strong message to the minister that not everyone in the north has access to a credit card. Despite the good news, we should keep in mind the one-time $2 million program is temporary. NDP Transportation minister Claire Trevena says the “interim” service will only last twelve months while she evaluates demand. In other words, we could be right back where we started this time next year.
It is a bare bones service to be sure. The service between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson amounts to only one round trip per week. I know many people had no other option but to use the old Greyhound service for medical appointments when the Northern Health shuttle wasn’t running. There is also the question of vulnerable populations. Low income individuals may find the $35 to $45 fares too steep and resort to the common practice of hitchhiking. The whole idea is to provide an affordable service that would discourage young people, especially women, from putting themselves at risk.
At many points along the way, the bus still schedules arrivals and departures at all hours of the night. This is not optimal from a safety or a convenience point of view.
That being said, BC Bus North is a start. You can be sure that I will continue to work with my fellow MLAs from the north to arrive at a permanent, long term solution.
Member of the Legislative Assembly,
Peace River North