Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

The Regional District of Nanaimo is assisting the operators of Gabriola’s bus service with a grant application.

If successful, the $25,000 application will be used to develop an operating plan for GERTIE and could include changes such as route and schedule configurations.

Funded by the B.C. Ministry of Health and administered by BC Healthy Communities, the Age-Friendly Communities grant is focused on supporting older adults to age in place, and live active, socially engaged, independent lives.

Community groups and non-profit organizations are ineligible to apply for the grant, so the board of the Gabriola Community Bus Foundation approached the RDN to apply on its behalf. BC Healthy Communities notes a partner organization may take a leading role in the day-to-day management of a project applied for. Helen Cook, GCBF board member, said the goal is to develop an age-friendly service plan.

“The challenge for GERTIE is to deliver service with a limited budget that will maximize the benefit for Gabriola residents,” Cook said. “The GCBF wants to consult with the entire community and engage with the older adult population to better understand how GERTIE can serve their travel needs. GERTIE has been in operation now for over 10 years and it is time to refresh our understanding of community transit demand.”

Part of the development of an operation plan would involve consulting with Gabriola’s older adult population. As of the 2021 Census, the average age on Gabriola is 57 and 44 per cent of the population is 65 years and older.

Electoral Area B taxpayers do not pay into the RDN-wide transit service. While RDN staff told the board of directors at their July 25 meeting that administrative assistance to GCBF is expected to be minimal, an administrative charge could be drawn from successful grant funding for any significant RDN staff time required.

Grant decisions will be announced in the fall.

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