VICTORIA, B.C. – There has been recent talk as to the future of the three independent bus services that service Northern B.C. residents with the BC Bus North, Northern Health Connections and the BC Transit’s inter-community bus service.
With BC Bus North and Northern Health Connections serving the North Peace Region with similar services and both being subsidized services by the government of BC the question is will these services be merged.
In speaking with Steve Raper of Northern Health he shares that Northern Health Connections has been in service since 2006 moving approximately 15,000 people per year to medical appointments within BC that they would not otherwise be able to attend, which helps keep people in their homes and out of the hospital system.
The Northern Health Connections was designed to move vulnerable people with chronic conditions between communities where medical services might not be available in those communities. Raper says the bus is for a “specific audience.”
Raper shares that travel patterns will shift to accommodate and bridge the gap of services depending on the geography of the Province. The Health Connection bus is geared to fit those with physical challenges and providing a daylight hour service that gets patients to a health care facility rather than a public spot.
Whereas the BC Bus North was a response to public service for transportation shares Raper. The Health Connections Bus has worked with BC Bus through the Ministry of Transportation that they can use Health Connections call centre, the BC Bus runs at different times.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure shared, outside of regional transit services, there are three services presently operating in the North: BC Bus North, Northern Health Connections, and BC Transit’s inter-community bus service along Highway 16 (under the B.C. government’s Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan).
Although Northern Health Connections and BC Transit’s inter-community bus service have different purposes than BC Bus North, the ministry sees both complementing the interim long-haul service.
The ministry is participating in an inter-provincial working group with the federal government and other provinces and territories to address the impact of discontinued inter-city bus services and develop solutions. This work is ongoing.
The ministry goes on to share, that at this time the BC Bus North, Northern Health Connections, and BC Transit’s inter-community bus service will remain separate.
According to the government, BC Bus North’s costs are coming in below budget. The costs were estimated at $2 million for 12 months. After deductions for fare revenue, BC Bus North’s actual costs are expected to be closer to $1.3 million.
We appreciate that people need access to safe, affordable and reliable transportation, to get to work, to get to school, to access the services they need, and to have the freedom to travel within and between communities, shared the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.