County rolls out transportation option

A 2018 Ford Starcraft Allstar bus arrived Oct. 10 for Big Lakes Transportation Program operated by Big Lakes County Family and Community Support Services. The 12-passenger bus, with capacity for two wheelchairs, was introduced to county council at its regular meeting Oct. 24. Left-right are Big Lakes County Reeve Richard Simard, FCSS manager Louise Myre, FCSS High Prairie outreach worker Nancy Marquardt and South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart, county FCSS representative.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County Family and Community Support Services now has a bus to call its own.

FCSS unveiled its 12-passenger 2018 Ford Starcraft Allstar on Oct. 10 to use in the Big Lakes Transportation program. It will hit the road in 2019.

The bus was purchased by the county for about $85,000. It has space for two wheelchairs to transport residents to appointments and other activities locally and to Grande Prairie.

“We want to make it accessible and useful for everyone,” says FCSS manager Louise Myre.

“A community assessment completed in 2015 indicated that such a program would be well-received.”

Although medical appointments will take priority, residents will also be able to use the program for getting mail and groceries, and social activities.

When the pilot program started in February 2017, FCSS contracted the van owned by the High Prairie Golden Age Club. However, the program stopped about one year ago since the van was permitted to carry only seniors and was not allowed on rural roads, Myre says.

No date has been set to start the transportation program.

The new FCSS bus features vinyl seats with seat belts and slider arm rests, overhead storage with netting, walker storage options, padded grab rails and stanchions behind the driver’s seat and in front of the front right passenger seats.

About three trips a week will be scheduled for High Prairie for medical appointments and other necessities, although she says that could change to accommodate need and demand.

The bus will also make a trip to Grande Prairie once a month.

A return trip to High Prairie will be $20 while the rate to Grande Prairie will be $40.

“For Grande Prairie trips, the bus leaves from High Prairie so residents will have to either find transportation in, or we may look at establishing a shuttle system from the hamlets and outlying areas,” Myre says.

However, for local trips to High Prairie, the bus will pick up county residents from their homes.

FCSS introduced the service to meet the needs that many local residents face not having transportation to medical appointments in High Prairie and Grande Prairie.

In 2016, FCSS received a University of Alberta Medically at-Risk Drivers grant totalling $34,000, which included $24,000 in-kind assistance and $10,000 cash to help start a rural transportation system.

“We will be working with them, as the program develops,” Myre says.


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