Ditidaht First Nation will soon be operating a shuttle between Nitinaht Village and Port Alberni.
As a pilot project, the shuttle will provide access to services, including grocery shopping, doctors appointments, medication pickup, and other personal administrative needs, for Ditidaht members, while also informing the Ditidaht First Nation’s government on the demand for the service and its long-term sustainability.
Jim Fothergill-Brown, Ditidaht’s emergency coordinator, said the pilot shuttle program will operate bi-weekly, with a start date to be announced, and is intended for people with no vehicle, or those who don’t want to drive to Port Alberni by themselves, to get to that community.
He said the majority of Ditidaht members have family and friends in Port Alberni that they like to visit, and 90 per cent of band members’ doctors operate from there.
“This will be a trial run to see what the uptake would be on a system like that in this community,” Fothergill-Brown said.
The initiative is one of 13 innovative transportation projects that will improve inter-community travel between Vancouver Island and coastal communities with strategic investments from the Community Passenger Transportation Fund.
The one-time $230,000 fund has been fully invested into projects by Island Coastal Economic Trust and the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance, with funding provided by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“Rural communities in the south coast region are made stronger by inter-community transport,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“It allows people to reach other communities for medical appointments, groceries, and all kinds of basic amenities. These grants are improving and expanding the transport services that help people live their lives.”
ICET and the VIEA are investing up to $20,000 on each of the 13 projects that will take place throughout 2024 that are creating new services, undertaking planning, expanding services, and moving infrastructure projects forward.
The Community Passenger Transportation Fund was created based on a series of engagement sessions with 96 local governments, First Nations, Indigenous organizations, community groups, transportation providers, and input from over 1,500 coastal residents that identified community-based perspectives on the challenges, gaps, and opportunities in passenger transportation within ICET’s service region.
“As coastal residents, we’ve always known transportation between communities is a critical challenge,” said Aaron Stone, chair of ICET and the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
“Individually, the projects we’re announcing today show communities’ innovative solutions for their unique regional challenges. Cumulatively, the impact is impressive. This is a big step towards improving inter-community transportation across the entire region.”