New funding has been awarded to northern B.C. communities for a shuttle program, a service that is welcome news for dozens of rural areas. The shuttle service will be expanded with $2.8 million in new funding to be shared by 18 communities and organizations.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach feels that this service is moving northwest transportation in the right direction.

"We see services being more and more centralized in the larger communities in regions like ours. Having an affordable, safe transportation option like this transit system that is being put into place is really vital for a lot of people, whether they're seniors, people with disabilities, or youth who don't have driver's licenses," Bachrach adds. "These are all members of our community that have transportation needs. And because of these grants that have been made, they're going to have more options."

The shuttle grants were awarded earlier this month by Northern Development Initiative Trust, a non-profit agency that received $7.9 million in federal-provincial Safe Restart funding last year for transportation services in northern B.C. The shuttle program will replace the existing community program, effective April 1.

In addition to 11 organizations that previously received funding, seven new providers are receiving support to bring community shuttle service to dozens of additional rural and remote communities, including Dawson Creek, Chetwynd and the District of Stewart.

"When we were informed that we got this, there were some tears for sure. It really seems like it's going to be a huge game changer," said Elaine Storey, Executive Director of Autumn Services, Fraser Lake.

Storey believes having the shuttle service will help the centre complete day-to-day tasks more efficiently, including delivering food to vulnerable families within the area.

"We have a food share program where we deliver 40 boxes a week to vulnerable families, so we're trying to get them to come back in the centre. However, a lot of them don't have a vehicle, so we will want to continue to deliver food to these families."

Northern Development Initiative Trust began accepting applications for the new community shuttle program in November 2021. As part of its agreement with government, the trust continues to engage with Indigenous communities, local governments and stakeholders to develop grant programs that will address the region's diverse transportation needs.