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February 15, 2013

Battle River Bus

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"It’s time to get rolling, put wheels on the ground in Camrose County. Time to start connecting existing rural transportation services in  Battle River Country". 

This is the consensus of those representing several regional organizations who met by teleconference on Thursday, February 7 and a subsequent meeting at Camrose County on Friday, February 8. Work-group participants thus far include Alberta Rural Development Network; Association for Life-wide Living (ALL) of Alberta; Bashaw and District Health and Wellness Foundation; Bashaw Town Council; Camrose County; Hospice Society of Camrose & District; Rural Community Program CDSS and the Wheels in Motion. FCSS, Daysland and Provost are also active participants in the proposed rural transportation network.

A number of other communities and organizations -- from Battle Lake on the west to Provost and the Alberta/Saskatchewan border on the east -- have expressed their interest in active involvement. 

Recent studies conducted by several Alberta-based organizations indicate the absence of regularly scheduled rural transportation throughout much of Alberta -- and no public transportation in many rural areas. For example, "Rural Transportation Project Phase I", conducted by ALL collected research data from the rural communities of Bashaw, Edberg, Ferintosh, Duhamel and New Norway in Camrose County. Results of this research emphasize a aprofound need for intergenertional and multipurpose transportation in all of Battle River region. The results of this 2012 research concurred with a 2010 report prepared for the Alberta Motor Association by the Medically at Risk Driver Centre (MARD), University of Alberta, which clearly indicates the need for a well developed and well organized system of rural transportation.

The Battle River Bus Working Group was able to make several important deductions from the MARD report: There are actually many transportation assets in Battle River region. From 2010 data, there are in fact at least 17 small buses and vans in our region. However, many of the buses are underutilized, in part due to lack of education about service availability, who can use it and problems overall in coordination. By connecting the existing rural assets, there could be significant potential for servicing the entire area. Experience of the last several months points to growing interest in exploring regional collaboration for transportation. When funding from a recent call for proposals went to Wainwright, the regional working group concluded, "we can live with that; it’s in the Battle River region", and got right to work in planning our own next steps.

The Battle River Bus Working Group decided to step up its efforts for implementation of a Camrose County transportation plan with a view to leveraging existing regional transportation resources. Meetings with a number of stakeholders are planned for March. They will start in Bashaw the first week in March with a presentation of the draft concept plan and be ready by March 26 for presentation to Camrose County Council.

Community-driven rural initiatives have been assuming greater importance in the last couple of years. It is exciting to see how rural people are coming together to find rural solutions to rural challenges. Interest in working together is growing. As rural people, we understand the treasures we have. We now want to harness a wide variety of local energies and build on our rural assets in creative ways.

It is time to invest in practical rural projects that address the needs of rural people in the communities where they live. The proposed Battle River Bus is a step in this direction.

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