The viability of establishing bus service in Cambridge Bay, either as a public service or as a private undertaking, is being examined.

An electric mini-bus, possibly similar to this Orion E model by Mellor, could be zipping around Cambridge Bay if a Kitikmeot Chamber of Commerce proposal for a pilot project comes to fruition. image courtesy of Mellor

The Kitikmeot Chamber of Commerce has undertaken the research for a pilot project. Chamber executive director Valter Botelho-Resendes is looking at ways of tapping into government financial support, such as by possibly acquiring a 25-passenger electric mini-bus, which may qualify under “green” funds.

He said he’s brought the proposal to the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association and

the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency seeking support.

“If the hamlet doesn’t want to take it on (as a public service) then… I do think it should be a paid service of some sort but I’d like the money to go back into infrastructure… somehow back into road infrastructure,” Botelho-Resendes said, adding that fares would likely be waived for elders and children.
He’s hoping the project could be a reality by 2020 or 2021.

He said he’s been approached by residents who have complained about taxi service being unreliable at times in the community of close to 1,750 people, and he’s experienced lengthy waits himself.

“People are saying if we had better transportation we could get to work better, we could get around better,” he said. “Polar Knowledge would be more accessible – the CHARS (Canadian High Arctic Research Station) building – the airport and so on.”

The initiative is not meant to undercut cab service, he said. The bus would be equipped with real-time tracking showing its whereabouts and whether it’s on schedule. If residents missed the bus, the app on their phone would direct them to taxi options, he noted, adding that he’s talked to owners of the local taxi companies.

“We’re trying to make it so it works hand-in-hand,” he said.

The bus service would probably run from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. during weekdays with a condensed express route during peak hours and possibly a second bus in service. Weekend hours would likely be scaled back from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. he said.

There would also be prerecorded announcements made on board the bus in the Inuit language, English and French, letting passengers know which stop is coming next.

Botelho-Resendes created an online poll on Facebook that closes at at the end of the month. Sixty-two votes had been cast of Oct. 17 about 85 per cent were in favour of creating bus service, he said.

“This would be huge in the North,” he said, noting that other Kitikmeot communities may also be candidates for similar ventures in the future. “The whole goal of this is not just for Cambridge Bay… we want to take it to Kugluktuk, Kugaaruk, Taloyoak. Those communities are the worst hit. Taloyoak doesn’t have a taxi at all.”

He’s researching three companies with electric buses that can be wheelchair accessible and are also proven to run in Northern climates.

Rankin Auto Value commenced bus service in Rankin Inlet in September, initially for free but then started charging on Oct. 1. Fares are $10 per adult for single use, $5 for elders and youth. Monthly pass options are available as well.

No one involved with that operation was available for comment.

Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...

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