Coastal Communities Connected by New Passenger Transportation Initiatives

Pacific Rim Highway 4 connects communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island. © Destination BC Yuri Choufour
Pacific Rim Highway 4 connects communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island. © Destination BC Yuri Choufour

Community Passenger Transportation Fund drives 13 inter-community travel projects.

COURTENAY, 18 January 2024: Innovative transportation projects will improve inter-community travel between Vancouver Island and coastal communities with strategic investments from the Community Passenger Transportation Fund. The 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,” says MLA Hon. Rob Fleming, the 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.” 

Community Projects span the entire region

A pie chart that details the geographic distribution of the 13 Community Passenger Transportation fund projects.

Among the new projects funded, Ditidaht First Nation will be operating a shuttle between Nitinaht Village and Port Alberni. As a pilot project, the service will immediately 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 Nations government on the demand for the service and its long-term sustainability.  

On Mayne Island, where the population is 20 years older than the provincial average, the Mayne Island Assisted Living Society will expand the community bus service to provide seniors and other residents affordable access to important off-island needs. Similar initiatives focused on improving seniors’ access to transportation will take place on the Sunshine Coast, in Port Hardy, and along the Pacific Rim. 

The Haliwud water taxi, which is operated under a Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation-owned business in the Broughton Archipelago, will improve accessibility and inclusivity, particularly for Elders living in Gwa-yas-dums (Gilford Island), ‘Yalis (Alert Bay), Ukwanalis (Kingcome River), and Port McNeill through new wheelchair ramps to be installed at its four primary ports.  

“As coastal residents, we’ve always known transportation between communities is a critical challenge,” says Aaron Stone, Chair, Island Coastal Economic Trust. “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.” 

Project themes and community-led objectives

A bar graph showing the transportation project theme of the 13 Community Passenger Transportation fund projects.

Through the one-time $230,000 fund, Island Coastal Economic Trust and Vancouver Island Economic Alliance are investing up to $20,000 in 13 projects that are creating new services, undertaking planning, expanding services, and moving infrastructure projects forward. The funding is administered by MNP with all 13 projects taking place throughout 2024. A summary of each is available in the Appendix, provided below. 

The goal of these projects is to enhance the ability of residents and visitors within communities on Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and parts of coastal B.C., to access inter-community transportation within four specific objectives:  

  • Strengthen passenger transportation governance and collaboration. 
  • Broaden regional partnerships on inter-community passenger transportation. 
  • Expand or enhance inter-community passenger transportation services, especially in rural and remote communities. 
  • Create and/or expand innovative and non-traditional passenger transportation opportunities. 

The one-time Community Passenger Transportation Fund was created based on the 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 the Trust’s service region. The insights from these engagements were made available in August 2023 through the Island Coastal Intercommunity Transportation “What We Heard Report”.

“Vancouver Island Economic Alliance enthusiastically embraced this project for its emphasis on community engagement,” says Kate Bishop, Chair, Vancouver Island Economic Alliance. “Recognizing the distinctive transportation needs of the region was paramount, the commitment to supporting community-led initiatives through the grants underscores our belief that the solutions reside within the wealth of local knowledge.”

Applications to the fund were accepted from Oct 17, 2023, to Nov 17, 2023. Each project was assessed for its feasibility, alignment with the priorities identified in the 2023 engagement sessions and public feedback, implementation plan, and outcomes. The thirteen funded projects will deliver on each of the Foundational Principles identified by participants in the August 2023 report: 90% of projects identified personal safety, community empowerment and inclusivity, 70% focused on reconciliation, and 60% on environmental sustainability.  The projects spanned a diversity of regions on the coast. 


About Island Coastal Economic Trust

Founded by the Province of British Columbia in 2006, the Island Coastal Economic Trustworks to build a sustainable and resilient coastal economy in reciprocal relationships with First Nations, municipalities, and regional districts across Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and islands and inlets from the Salish Sea to Cape Caution. Serving over half a million residents, we partner with communities in the development and financing of their economic infrastructure and diversification efforts through our unique structure that is led by, and accountable to, communities. 

Since our inception, Island Coastal Economic Trust has approved more than $60 million to economic development initiatives that have attracted over $333 million in new investment to our region. These investments have created over 2,910 permanent jobs, and countless positive impacts, across the coast. 

Island Coastal Economic Trust acknowledges that we work for communities across the ancestral territories of the Kwak’wala, Nuučaan̓uɫ, Éy7á7juuthem, Ligwilda’xw, Pəntl’áč, She shashishalhem, Swx̱wú7mesh, Hul’q’umi’num’, diitiidʔaatx̣, SENĆOŦEN, Lekwungen, and T’Sou-ke speaking peoples. 

About Vancouver Island Economic Alliance

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) is a registered non-government, non-profit society spearheading regional economic development for the entire Vancouver Island and rural islands region. The society is funded by memberships, sponsorships, and gate receipts from events.

About MNP

National in scope and local in focus, MNP is one of Canada’s leading professional services firms — proudly serving individuals, businesses, and organizations since 1958. Through the development of strong relationships, they provide client-focused accounting, consulting, tax, and digital services. Their clients benefit from personalized strategies with a local perspective to fuel success wherever business takes them.

Media Contacts

Jeff Bartlett
Communications and Impact Manager
Island Coastal Economic Trust

Julie Sperber 
President and CEO
Vancouver Island Economic Alliance

Summary of Approved Projects

Malahat Nation
Shuttle Service Business Case and Plan
$19,921 approved

The Malahat Nation strives to build on the recommendations of its first Transit and Mobility Plan. This project intends to establish a business plan for a community shuttle service that will serve as the primary connection between the Malahat Lands and the Mill Bay Shopping Centre with a set service period and the ability to adapt once users express their immediate mobility needs. 

Social Planning Cowichan
Connecting CommUNITY Transportation Ladysmith & Stz’uminus
$20,000 approved

Social Planning Cowichan partnered with Ladysmith, Stz’uminus First Nation, and local organizations on the CommUNITY Together to End Poverty Hw-nuts’-ulwum (as one) Poverty Reduction Strategy. The proposal will establish a Transportation Action Committee to explore the feasibility of the proposed actions under the transportation theme of the Poverty Reduction Strategy through community engagement. The primary outcome is to create a plan of action for advancing the most effective option(s) and moving the initiative forward.

Ditidaht First Nation
Community Transportation Initiative:
$19,500 approved

The proposal for this pilot project is to have bi-weekly trips for members from Nitinaht Village to Port Alberni to access vital services, including grocery shopping, doctors’ appointments, medication pickup, and other personal administrative needs. 

Uchucklesaht Tribe Government
Ehthateese Marine Shuttle Service
$20,000 approved

This project offers marine shuttle services to and from the Uchucklesaht traditional territory. The project will provide the first efficient, reliable, and timely method to travel to the territory while increasing overall quality of life for citizens, both in the territory and in the Port Alberni area. 

T’SE’KAME’ Forestry Ltd
T’se’kame’ Wheelchair Accessibility for a First Nations Water Taxi Business
$20,000 approved

The project idea stemmed from noticing that most wheelchair clients have extreme difficulty boarding the Haliwud water taxi. A ramp will be designed and made specific to the boat and the docks that the Haliwud water taxi services such as Port McNeill, G̱ wa’yasda̱ m’s (Gilford), ’Ya̱ lis (Alert Bay), and Ukwanalis (Kingcome). 

District of Tofino
Tofino Free Shuttle
$10,000 approved

The project aims to contribute towards the development of accessible, inclusive and sustainable communities as it allows residents and visitors to travel freely throughout Tofino, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations communities and Pacific Rim National Park.  

Cortes Community Economic Development
Cortes/Quadra Inter-Community Passenger Transportation Solution
$20,000 approved

This project aims to provide an opportunity for residents of Quadra, Cortes, and nearby underserved islands to come together in a facilitated community consultation to confirm the best alternative transportation options and understand the potential structure and service routes to support these options.  

Pacific Rim Hospice Society – Better at Home Program
Transportation for Health
$20,000 approved

The Pacific Rim Hospice Society’s Better at Home Program aims to expand the client base, offering older adults (55+) options for transportation to facilitate essential activities and promote their mental and physical well-being in a region with limited or no public transportation opportunities. 

Moving Around Pender Alternative Transportation Society
Pender HANDY-Dart Taxi Pilot Project
$19,096 approved

The proposal is to run a pilot project to test the utility of a subsidized (important public-private partnership) passengerdirected service within the community; a HANDY-Dart Taxi service modelled on the existing BC Transit program. 

Mayne Island Assisted Living Society
Expansion and Enhancement of the Mayne Island Community Bus Program (‘Day Tripper’)
$20,000 approved

The project aims to provide seniors and other residents of Mayne Island with affordable access to vital off-island services through their Day Tripper bus program. With this funding, they’ll provide weekly bus service to Victoria and Sidney every Tuesday, enhance community engagement, and initiate expansion plans with neighbouring islands. 

Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society
Seniors Transport Program
$20,000 approved

The Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society aims to develop a system using local transport, including taxis and private buses, that would allow all seniors to access transportation when needed. This project ensures that the seniors do not become isolated and more vulnerable as they age. This pilot project is a stepping stone towards purchasing a vehicle to provide a sustainable long-term transport service. 

Sunshine Coast Resource Centre Society
Sunshine Coast Seniors Transportation Action Plan
$20,000 approved
The Sunshine Coast Resource Centre Society will identify gaps in seniors’ transportation, curate mitigation strategies, and develop locally informed recommendations for the seniors residing in the Sunshine Coast. It will further raise awareness of transportation impacts on seniors, including affordable, timely access to services, social isolation, and aging-in-place issues.

Gabriola Community Bus Foundation
Gabriola Community Bus Foundation:
$9,278 approved

This Gabriola Island Seasonal Enhanced Transit Service project will provide additional transit service to and from the BC Ferry terminal to key destinations across Gabriola Island on the GERTIE community bus.