Representatives of local government, the province, BC Transit and local First Nations celebrate the arrival of a BC Transit bus to Terrace in November 2017. The new service between the city and the Hazeltons filled the last-remaining gap in the Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan. (File photo)

Highway of Tears public transit plan wins safety and security awards

Advocate for the missing and murdered says recognition deserved, “very very happy” with service

BC Transit’s new service connecting communities along the Highway of Tears has earned high praise from both the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) and B.C.’s premier, John Horgan.

CUTA recognized the Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan with a 2018 Award for Safety and Security, in recognition of the project’s “commitment to enhancing the safety and security of employees and customers through the development of an effective safety and security program.”

The plan also received a regional and provincial Premier’s Award for Partnerships in November, recognizing the collaborative efforts of BC Transit, the provincial government, First Nations communities, local governments and regional districts, and the families involved with the Highway of Tears initiative.

“People in northern B.C., and in particular women and teenaged girls, need to feel safe travelling between communities, and that’s what the Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan is now providing,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena in a press release. “It’s wonderful 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.”

Since November 2017, BC Transit began offering contiguous service from Terrace to Prince George — a route of almost 600 kilometres. The schedule was designed to allow for return travel from small communities to the nearest large centre on the same day.

Prior to their pullout of the north, Greyhound was often criticized by Highway of Tears advocates for its inconvenient scheduling, often dropping off passengers at Hwy 16 destinations late at night. Highway of Tears safety and justice advocate, and aunt of Tamara Chipman, last seen hitchhiking near Prince Rupert in 2005, also offered praise for BC Transit’s program.

“There’s always room for improvement, but I’m actually very, very happy with having our own transit system up here.”

She says some of the smaller on-reserve communities could still benefit from the service, but overall she’s heard only positive feedback from female riders. Because all drivers are local, who know the area and the people, Radek believes the plan fosters a safer environment for passengers.

“Greyhound wasn’t there for the people anymore. Their focus, in the end, was only on parcel delivery. With BC Transit I’m hearing nothing but good things. It’s good for all of us and it’s keeping local eyes on our girls.”

The province has committed to five years of transit funding to the Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan, a project worth $6.4 million. The funding covers the cost of buses and two-thirds of operating costs.

Local governments and First Nations partners are responsible for the remaining third of costs.

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