The new Hwy. 16 bus system will expand on Nov. 20, 2017, connecting Terrace with communities in the Hazelton area.
When this begins, the inter-community transit services will be available from Terrace to Prince George; however, there will be no connection between segments.
The four different segments – Terrace to Hazelton area, Hazelton area to Smithers, Smithers to Houston and Burns Lake and Houston and Burns Lake to Prince George – will operate on different times and different days. Each segment will cost passengers $5.
“When we were planning these routes, we talked to local communities and what we heard was that the biggest need was for same-day return service from small communities to regional centres,” explained Jonathon Dyck, a spokesperson for BC Transit.
“The intention of this service is not for long-haul [transit services] across Hwy. 16,” he continued. “That’s the way the system has been designed; the idea is that having that service in those four segments would better meet the needs of the communities.”
“We’re always open to having more conversations and discussions, but that’s what we’re focused on right now,” he added.
The Houston and Burns Lake to Prince George segment operates Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays while the Houston and Burns Lake to Smithers route runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The buses linking the Hazelton area to Terrace will run three days per week – on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
In addition to introducing the new service between Terrace and the Hazelton area, BC Transit will offer an additional day of service between Kispiox (located 15 km north of Hazelton) and Smithers, a segment that currently runs on Tuesdays and Fridays.
BC Transit is expected to start advertising the new schedules in early November.
Ridership on the new Hwy. 16 bus service has been exceeding expectations. BC Transit is planning to implement larger buses with a seating capacity of 30 next year.
“These buses will provide a safe, efficient and affordable way to travel between communities,” said Claire Trevena, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister. “This is especially important for women and teenaged girls who are travelling and are in need of a safe link between neighbouring communities.”
The new bus system is part of the $6.4-million Hwy. 16 Transportation Action Plan, a five-point project intended to improve safety and alleviate hitchhiking along the highway corridor. The provincial government has committed to five years of funding while local governments and First Nations share one third of the operating costs.