Improved regional transit and the need for a survey to determine travelling tendencies of area residents was discussed recently by local politicians.
At the community-to-community-to-community (C3) meeting on October 13, qathet Regional District (qRD) chief administrative officer Al Radke said a rural transit solution fund grant application has been submitted. C3 meetings are held quarterly between qathet Regional District (qRD), Tla’amin Nation and City of Powell River to discuss items of mutual interest.
The federal rural transit solution fund provides up to $50,000 and could enable qRD to better understand, from a financial aspect, what it would cost to operate and maintain an alternative transportation system, according to a report Radke wrote for the qRD board.
“We will have to wait and see how successful we are,” said Radke. “It was a grant opportunity that the regional board approved, and we are taking a run at it, with all three governments in mind, and we’ll see what comes of it.”
Tla’amin executive council member Lori Wilson said in terms of regional transportation to Vancouver, there is benefit to a survey that collects information on people travelling.
“What is the need for people to be travelling out of town?” asked Wilson. “I’d like to see some data and statistics.”
qRD and C3 meeting chair Patrick Brabazon said some years ago the ferry advisory committee attempted that sort of a survey from the point of view of dealing with BC Ferries.
“We didn’t get very far because of privacy issues, et cetera, but it would probably be worthwhile trying again, especially from a local government point of view, because the ferry advisory committee is not a local government,” said Brabazon. “The big question for us then was medical appointments. Where do you go: south or west? There’s an awful lot of people going west over to Courtenay and Campbell River, et cetera. This is something I think the regional district board should take under consideration and see what we can do. We’ll follow up.”
City councillors favour survey
City of Powell River councillor George Doubt said he thought the survey was a great idea. He said he has a motion coming to the regional hospital board, which may be a good way to get a handle on this.
“I agree that there are a lot of people who are going for treatment or diagnosis, leaving our peninsula and going to Vancouver Island or Vancouver, or even down to Sechelt,” said Doubt. “It could be an argument for improved transportation. When the regional health board comes into it, it could be an opportunity to look at the kinds of services we want to be happening locally to avoid that transportation.
“It could assist us in establishing the need for better transportation and it could lead to a study on services that would be better provided locally, even if they are virtual services, set up in a proper facility at the hospital. I’m suggesting the regional hospital board might be a place to concentrate some of that work.”
Powell River Regional Hospital Board chair and city councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said she agrees that’s a good idea. She said she has a meeting scheduled with leadership at Vancouver Coastal Health so she’ll broach the question and see if they have any information they can share that doesn’t breach privacy issues.
City councillor Cindy Elliott said she wanted to speak in support of having a survey and some way of tracking medical travel.
“If medical travel for a consistent reason can be reduced by providing services locally, it’s a really good idea, and something we should have some sort of systemic way of tracking,” said Elliott.
Regional district Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said there is a significant number of travellers heading to Vancouver Island, not just down to Vancouver.
“We’ve had a lot of discussion and pressure to try and get a better connection to the Lower Mainland, but one of the challenges I found, going to university in Nanaimo, was the transportation system to Vancouver Island was atrocious,” said Gisborne. “There are a number of rehab services where locals are heading to the island, and unfortunately, we continue to lose rehab services and rehab infrastructure locally. If we are going to do the survey, I’m wondering, rather than going to the regional hospital district, we could potentially look at our social planner. That way, we could look at individuals who aren’t necessarily driving or able to drive who require public transportation, such as those looking for medical appointments.
“The other demographic we overlook is students, and I believe there are a lot of students who grow up in Powell River and start their studies on the island, but they still want to come back home for holidays and things like that. I’m wondering if the other avenue we can pursue is the social planner.”
City councillor Rob Southcott said it might also be worth checking through various agencies before reinventing the wheel.
“I think there has been a fair amount of study,” added Southcott.