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Increasing local transportation options a high priority for Vanderhoof

For those without a car, transportation in Vanderhoof can be tricky. The district has no public transit system and no taxi service. There is a valid taxi license for the district but it’s held by a company in Fort St. James that doesn’t provide rides in Vanderhoof.

“We have not had a taxi service here for a number of years, which makes it very difficult for seniors in our community,” says Mayor Gerry Thiessen. “So we reached out to Minister Fassbender.”

The Minister suggested Lyft or Uber but Thiessen says those services lack the stability needed to solve the district’s issues.

“It isn’t quite as organizationally structured. Our thing, in a small community we need stability when it comes to transportation especially when it comes to seniors and people who don’t have access to a vehicle. That’s a very important part of our community is that people have access to stable transportation on a continual basis.”

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Thiessen says the District has looked into acquiring a new license for the district but has found the process “too onerous.”

“We’ve looked into it a number of times and we’ve tried to find a solution there that would meet the needs of the people of Vanderhoof and each time we’ve gone through the entire scenario, we’ve struggled to find a solution.”

But it might not be the license that’s the issue.

“If somebody were to apply and provide evidence that there was not taxi service being provided currently in Vanderhoof, we would be very receptive to that application, says Don Zurowski, Chair of the BC Passenger Transportation Board Don Zurowski. “When you’re competing in a larger market that has a mature service, you do have to provide a fair bit of evidence of public need. But when you’ve got a community that isn’t being served at all, it isn’t onerous in my view. The challenge can be, is it economic for somebody to operate in Vanderhoof?”

Zurowski says that the main component for acquiring a taxi license in the province is demonstrating a need for the service in a given community but there are other criteria the board considers.

“That you’re fit, proper and capable of providing the service. That means that you;’ve got the resources to provide a reliable vehicle and you’ve got a plan for how you’re going to manage the dispatch – just some capacity to operate this very small enterprise.”

“We know that probably a different model will have to take place,” says Thiessen. “It may be a combination of a taxi and BC transit system. We’re looking at a number of different models and would like to work with the Minister to find a solution in that area. Ideal would be another stable taxi in our community. I think though that another option would be a consistent transit system that would have something of a route but that also could pick people up for appointments, take them to shopping.”

Collaborating with neighbouring communities such as Fort St. James and Fraser Lake could make local transit options more viable and Thiessen says Vanderhoof would welcome that kind of effort.

Thiessen says the District hopes to work with Fassbender, as well as the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to find a solution soon.

In the meantime, District residents will have to rely on limited shuttle service and the kindness of friends neighbours to get around.

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