TYSON WHITNEY PHOTO The Village of Port Alice will be joining the Volunteer Transit Network on a trial basis starting April 1.

Volunteer Transportation Network coming to Port Alice

The service will be introduced as a pilot project

The Volunteer Transportation Network (VTN), a service that helps people with transportation challenges, will soon be servicing Port Alice.

The VTN started as a pilot project through a grant obtained by the Regional District’s Economic Development Service in 2007.

It is operated by North Island Community Services Society and and is integrated with the HandyDART program and the conventional transit system.

“VTN is more focused on health outcomes in terms of people getting to medical appointments and that kind of thing,”said Regional District of Mount Waddington Chief Administrative Officer Greg Fletcher during the VTN’s delegation to Port Alice Council on Jan. 24.

The service is intended for registered clients who do not have access to any alternative means of transportation. It aims to help people get to doctors appointments, social services, groceries, prescription pick ups, and other necessities.

“It was just over 10 years ago that we made the same trip to Port Alice council about the transit system,” said Fletcher.

The Village of Port Alice passed on the opportunity to join the VTN when it began operating 10 years ago. It currently operates in Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Fort Rupert, Coal Harbour, Woss, and Sointula.

“The Village of Port Alice has expressed interest in contractually joining the VTN service on a trial basis,” Fletcher wrote in a transit committee report.

“That it be recommended that an agreement be developed with the Village of Port Alice to provide a pilot VTN service from April 1 2018 to December 31,2018 such that the existing service partners have no additional costs,” the report concluded.

“We are now at the point where we have been able to recruit enough drivers in the majority of our communities to provide an excellent service for people that don’t drive or are unable to use the public transit system.”

“The service was designed to enhance the quality of life and contribute to the whole health and greater dependence of individuals and families,” said Mary Mavis, VTN program Coordinator. “I’m thrilled because we have an excellent team of drivers out there from all communities and I’m really excited about starting this up in Port Alice. I know there is a great need here and I really want to be the one to bridge that need and address that for you,” Mavis added.

VTN drivers use their own vehicles, but the VTN also has a wheelchair accessible lift van available to eligible clients with mobility issues.

In his report, Fletcher stated there would be start-up costs for driver training and for workshops for potential clients, but the pilot would be eligible for an Island Health Community Wellness Grant.

“It’s a great service and I wanted to make sure it was brought to us, because excuse the pun, I think we missed the bus a decade ago,” said Mayor Jan Allen, adding, “It’s not going to cost us a lot of money and we really need it.”

Those interested in using the VTN service will have to register with North Island Community Services prior to scheduling rides. For more information on the VTN call 250-956-3151 or email mwts@telus.net.

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