Local leaders, B.C. Transit representatives and community members gathered in Burns Lake last Friday to celebrate the start of the new Hwy. 16 bus service.
The new bus service, which began operating on June 19, connects Burns Lake to Prince George and Burns Lake to Smithers three times per week.
Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach said he believes this new service will have a positive affect on the local economy and it will serve to further solidify Burns Lake as a sub-regional centre between Prince George and Smithers.
“It is a truly momentous day for our community and our region,” he said. “For someone like myself who was born and raised here, this is a long time coming.”
Beach said the new bus service will also improve access to education, jobs, services and healthcare.
“With Burns Lake as a hub, it will mean more access, more convenience and more choice for our local residents,” he said. “It’s going to be such an amazing addition to our community and to our region.”
Burns Lake will be a hub for routes 161 and 162. Route 161 will depart Burns Lake for Prince George and return the same day on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; route 162 will provide services between Burns Lake and Smithers on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The one-way fare will be $5 per segment.
Burns Lake Band Chief Dan George said the new service will provide a safe and affordable transportation to all families along the corridor and hopefully eliminate the need for hitchhiking.
“You still see lots of people hitchhiking, hopefully we can eliminate that,” he said. “This is definitely a positive start and a step in the right direction and it’s a testament that we can all work together – First Nations, local government, regional government and the province.” “This is not the end, we still have much work to address the root causes associated with the missing and murdered women and girls,” he added. “It is not just a First Nations issue, it is an issue along Hwy. 16.”
This new inter-community transit is part of the $6.4 million Hwy. 16 transportation action plan, which encompasses transit, community vehicles, First Nations driver education, webcams and bus shelters. Detailed information about schedules can be found at bctransit.com/bulkley-nechako.
It is still unclear when the bus service that will connect the Southside to Hwy. 16 will begin operating.