Highway of Tears still doesn't have proper transit, says mayor of Smithers

The Mayor of Smithers says nothing has been done to improve transit along Highway 16 — despite recommendations from those who studied the cases of murdered and missing women in the region.

'Transportation in this region is the worst it has ever been' says Mayor Taylor Bachrach

The Missing Women's Inquiry in 2012 highlighted the need to improve safety along Highway 16 by adding more public transit. (Individual photos from Highwayoftears.ca)

The mayor of Smithers says nothing has been done to improve public transit along Highway 16 — also known as the Highway of Tears due to the number of unsolved murders and disappearances of women along the route.

"We've seen very little progress, if any progress at all," said Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach.

It's been three years since the Missing Women's Inquiry highlighted the need for better public transit in northern communities. It was one of the 63 recommendations made by Commissioner Wally Oppal.

The suggestion was to have a shuttle bus servicing communities, an option that the province isn't considering, says Bachrach.

"They told me point blank that the ministry is not considering a bus," said Bachrach about his meeting with Minister of Transportation Todd Stone last week.

Highway 16 near Prince George, B.C. is also known as the Highway of Tears due to the number of unsolved murders and disappearances of women along the route. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

He assumes the ministry is concerned with the cost of running a shuttle, "[the] province doesn't think shuttle bus is the appropriate way? Fine, so let us look at the other options," said Bachrach.

The province says a "one size fits all" approach like a shuttle bus won't address the transportation challenges northern communities face because of the significant distance between communities along the highway. 

Instead, the government says it is working on more practical solutions such as a web portal that collects information about transportation services in the region. 

No other option

On Tuesday, former Conservative MP John Cummins said that women are putting themselves at risk by hitchhiking along Highway 16.

"Hitchhiking on these lonely roads by themselves at night, that behaviour is dangerous," Cummins told host Rick Cluff on CBC Radio's The Early Edition.

Bachrach says everyone knows there are risks but the challenge is making travelling safer.

"Yes, there are risks but what are we going to do about it? How do we ensure that people travelling between our communities are safe?" said Bachrach.

He worries the situation is getting worse.

"Passenger transportation in this region is the worst it has ever been probably in decades and it will probably get worse," said Bachrach.

Greyhound just announced it is pulling another interior B.C. bus route, the company will no longer be running buses up the Columbia Valley past Invermere and Fairmont.

The government says it has taken a number of actions to make the highway safer, as well as supporting vulnerable women in the area. 


To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled Highway of Tears needs better transit says mayor with the CBC's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.

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