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Rural Transportation News. Alberta 2018. No. 1: Getting Around

Rural Transportation in Alberta

 Jane Ross*, PhD, Rural Transportation Team

Everyone needs to get around. But getting around is not so easy for many Canadian citizens who live in rural Alberta.

This new column by contributors from across Alberta, features articles about rural transportation for the whole year, 2018. Topics will range from individual and community accounts to alternative forms of transport, research findings, case studies and conference reports, from traffic safety to presentations made to the Government of Alberta, and also the incorporation of art forms in education for rural transportation.

Sometimes we're tempted to think how far we've come in Alberta. Yet, as many rural people will tell you, transportation availability or rather the lack of it, is a different story. Not so long ago trains and buses criss-crossed the province. Rural people had transportation choices. But things have changed.

Take the case of Mattie Dyer who I met shortly after her move to Edberg. It seemed a good place to retire. But soon reality set in: "I couldn't even buy a liter of milk. I could travel from Beijing to Edmonton, but I couldn't get from Edmonton to Edberg, or even from Edberg to Camrose."

As a McGill University graduate who had traveled the world and worked in many places, Edberg seemed the answer to her retirement needs. As a small, friendly village in a beautiful landscape near the Battle River, living costs seemed affordable on her fixed income and health services were available nearby - or so she thought. The problem was that Mattie didn't have her own vehicle. In the absence of rural public transportation, she was dependent on others. As the months rolled by, depending on others became less and less appealing and her sense of isolation increased. Eventually (and sadly) she had to move to a larger centre and her Edberg neighbours missed her.

Mattie's dilemma continues to be shared by rural citizens across Alberta who are in trouble if they don't have their own wheels or someone to take them where they need or want to go. 
How did things get this way and why does it matter so much? Rapid development of Alberta in the late 1800s onwards was possible because of roads and railways and even ferry systems to get people and products from place to place. The stories of Siding 16 (now Wetaskiwin), for example, are informative and exciting. They reveal a fierce determination to build a railroad linking Calgary, Edmonton and settlements along the way. At the same time, the success of CN and CP in the opening of frontiers became legendary worldwide. As transportation systems grew, they contributed to local development and market expansion. Communities across the province grew and thrived. Trains, trucks, buses, cars . . . people could and did get around.
But suddenly - or so it seemed - transportation services in rural Alberta disappeared and rural people were on their own. Although roads are better than ever, a new class system emerged:  those with transportation and those without.
While the gravity of the situation seemed to have escaped the attention of policymakers and those most responsible, the situation at the beginning of 2018 seems to be changing. People in communities and regions around the province are also thinking in new ways. Some are learning to work together for alternate forms of transportation. On the economic front, awareness is growing for the need to move from grant dependency to creative solutions. Some are learning how to design and apply business models appropriate to the transportation needs of people who live in rural communities. This includes students, tourists, in-region visitors, farmers, market gardeners, business people, churches, and health-medical service providers as well as providers of social and other services.
Looking forward, opportunities abound for rethinking transportation and the design of networks that will serve rural citizens across the lifespan and the province. Transportation for Everyone
will make it possible for
Everyone to Get Around.

People in Rural Transportation Team Alberta are committed to changes that contribute to the quality of life for everyone in rural Alberta. We value your feedback and ideas. To review blog comments about Rural Transportation, go to the ARDN (Alberta Rural Development Network) website; Click here

You can also contact (780) 672-9315 or other column writers through

Appreciation is extended to contributors, organizations and other stakeholders for their help in moving the Alberta Rural Transportation efforts along, and to the Alberta Weekly Newspaper's Association for helping to circulate this column. 

In the next column Cathie Bartlett, a former journalist reports on rural transportation Information Day II-2017.

*Jane Ross is a long-term advocate for rural transportation for everyone. 
She serves as President, Association for Life-wide Living (ALL) of Alberta.