Three organizations come together to fill gaps in rural transportation

The Rural Development Network (RDN) and the Association for Life-Wide Living of Alberta (ALL of Alberta) were awarded $40,000 from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) to pilot a rural transportation project in the Battle River region that could be adapted for the rest of the province.

Edmonton, AB- The partnership marks the start of a year-long project to improve rural transportation options in the Battle River region. The project: “Rural Transportation: Finding Better Solutions for 2021 and Beyond” will reconnect stakeholders and revive long-standing discussions to create better rural transportation options throughout the province. 

This project will work with the Battle River region to: 

  • Engage stakeholders by gathering issues/concerns on local transportation issues;
  • Synthesize research and gathered findings to create stories and narratives to be used to improve transportation perceptions, understanding and actions; 
  • Review existing initiatives in Alberta and other provinces to create a feasible plan for the region; 
  • Create project case studies to be replicated in other rural communities.

Public transportation presents unique challenges for rural communities at all times, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when rural people must travel long distances for assessment, care and vaccinations. 

Transportation providers now have to consider larger service zones, less service frequencies, and a dwindling ridership-base when servicing rural communities. With Greyhound’s departure from Battle River region in 2019, and all western Canada in 2018, and the subsequent suspension of their remaining bus routes across the rest of the country two years later-- it is becoming nearly impossible to live and work in a small community without a personal vehicle or an alternative. 

“Access to transportation is the most common barrier to living in a small community, for those who don’t have access to a private vehicle. Rural Alberta needs to work together to find new, sustainable solutions to ensure our rural communities continue to grow and thrive,” said RDN Executive Director Dee Ann Benard.

At a time when many Canadians are rethinking their urban bases, and evolving perceptions of remote work are gaining more traction, transportation and better broadband connectivity are paramount for rural communities to capitalize on the dawn of a ruralization movement.

“People in communities across Battle River Region have been outspoken about their rural transportation needs; especially after Greyhound closed services across the region,” says Jane Ross, President of ALL “by listening to what people were saying, a Rural Transportation Working Group was started in 2015 to explore needs and bring people together for Rural Transportation Information Days in 2016 and 2018”.

“While we have identified numerous transit facilities in communities across the region, most if not all existing initiatives are struggling. Our research affirms the need for better rural transportation solutions for 2021 and beyond. The AREF-RDN-ALL collaboration is committed to solutions that are appropriate, flexible and sustainable.”

"The availability of effective and affordable transportation options in smaller rural communities is essential to make affordable rural living for people of all ages and family-stages, which directly impacts the ability for resale of properties in these areas,” said Janice Resch, Chair-Elect of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s Board of Governors. “We look forward to seeing the results of this project for the Battle River region and how it might apply to similar regions across the rest of the province."

About RDN: The Rural Development Network (RDN) is a not-for-profit partnership of five Alberta post-secondary institutions dedicated to addressing key issues in rural communities at a local level. RDN supports the sustainability of rural communities by amplifying the "rural voice". RDN collaborates to identify and bring focus to rural issues, build local capacity, and find innovative, rural-based solutions to unique issues.

About ALL of Alberta: ALL of Alberta is a registered society in the Province of Alberta. Dedicated to community-driven initiatives, our efforts began in 2004 in response to concerns of long-term care residents and their family members. Since then, the organizational strategy, projects, and other activities, including rural transportation initiatives, have emerged in response to community-based opportunities, needs, and suggestions.

The Rural Transportation: Finding Better Solutions for 2021 and Beyond" project received funding from the community investment program Fund from the AREF, however, the views expressed are the personal views of the author and AREF accepts no responsibility for them.


Julia Juco