GERTIE - a community bus model for rural BC

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, May 29 2018

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) may be taking the GERTIE Community Bus model on the road, as a system which might work for other rural communities which are not served by the traditional public transit systems in BC.

MOTI Minister Claire Trevena was on Gabriola this past Wednesday, May 23, to address various transportation-oriented issues on the island.

Fay Weller and other GERTIE organizers presented the story of GERTIE to the Minister, and had some specific requests for the Ministry to take away from the meeting.

One of those requests was for a middle ground in which community bus systems could operate, somewhere between the public transit requirements and the commercial tour bus requirements.

Weller explained that if a bus system is operated outside of BC Transit, that community bus has to operate under the same restrictions applied to a commercial tour bus company.

As an example, on a public bus in Nanaimo, there is allowance for people to be standing as long as there is a handle for them to hang onto.

Another suggestion from the GERTIE crew was for the BC Government to set up a funding system which could be used to get community bus systems up and running.

Weller said another suggestion was for the Ministry to organize a forum - on Gabriola - to host people from BC communities wishing to set up community bus systems.

Minister Trevena said she was very impressed with the GERTIE system.

“The dedication of the people who made it happen and who are now running it.”

She said she wanted to hear from them not only to continue making sure the system is working for Gabriola, but how “it can be used, the lessons learned, [and how it can] be applied to other island communities or remote communities which do need public transit but won’t get BC Transit.”

She pointed out how the model on Gabriola shows “a huge flexibility of meeting needs of the island for both permanent residents and visitors.”

Trevena also pointed out that the rural communities along Hwy. 16 (Prince George to Prince Rupert), as well as other island communities, are places where models like GERTIE could be the solution for transportation issues.

She came back to how impressed she was with the professionalism of GERTIE, saying she had first learned about GERTIE through the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee who had told her about the local bus system, “and how it ran on waste vegetable oil.

“I had this impression of a ramshackle old thing bumping along. 

“GERTIE is really very well done, very professional.”