Written By Cody Skora
Current Situation of Transportation in the Camrose-Bashaw Corridor.
Quality of Life and Sustainability
What Does the Research Tell Us?
The Rural Transportation Survey
Individual Accounts, Personal Interpretations of the Communities.
Conclusions Based on the Research
This report is based on preliminary research concerning the need for rural transportation.
The Association for Life-Wide Living of Alberta has identified transportation as a profound concern in Rural Alberta along Highway 21. A qualitative study was conducted to explore the situation concerning rural transportation. The results of a preliminary qualitative study that talked with the people themselves shows the members of the communities involved within the Battle River Region that would benefit from the development of a rural transportation system. Surveys were distributed to members of six communities. Results of the survey showed there are significant demographic variables with individuals across the life span and individuals, families and communities and businesses that would profit from the implementation of a rural transportation system. Benefits accruing would be now and as well as in the future. Factors identified amongst participants who did not identify with benefiting from a transportation system included having access to personal modes of transportation, not being comfortable or willing to use such a system, or being comfortable with using family members as their main source of transportation. When surveyed on a personal and qualitative basis, it became apparent that the rural way of life is no longer a viable option for many residents in this area and the development of a rural transportation network would improve the quality of life for rural residents of the Battle River region in the communities of the study.
Based on qualitative research conducted from May – August 2012 along Highway 21 in the communities of Bashaw, Duhamel, Edberg, Ferintosh and New Norway, transportation is identified as a profound concern of rural stakeholders. The study reveals that:
● Diverse views about rural transportation are held by rural citizens.
● Rural transportation should be at the forefront of organizational, municipal and government planning.
● To date, much research on rural transportation and other rural needs has been carried out through survey methods, and often at the level of organizations rather than from theindividuals who are closest to the real information.
● Access to authentic citizen expression of their needs can be gained through application of Rapaille’s qualitative research methods and yield surprising results.
● There is need for strategic focus and alignment of transportation, economic, health and social planning developments.
● Results of the Phase I project indicate the value of moving ahead with Phase II in a different set of communities, and informed by Phase I findings.
I always thought of this as God's country. Jack Granatstein
The lack of transportation has been identified to members of Association for Life-Wide Living as a profound concern in Rural Alberta along Highway 21. In accordance with our mission statement, Inspiring creativity for health through our landscape, our communities and the arts, the association board in discussion with numerous stakeholders and advisors determined that rural transportation is a practical issue worthy of response. Escalating informal expressions of need have occurred over several years from specific communities, questioning the need for the development of a Rural Transportation Network having the potential to improve the quality of life for all residents in the region. Since association financial resources are limited, it was decided to focus on a small research area that would be manageable during a three month period of visits, study and report-back.
The setting for this study is a selection of communities between the Junction of Highway 13 and along Highway 21 from the south side of the Battle River from Duhamel area to New Norway, Ferintosh, Edberg and Bashaw. Please see the map below.
Map 1: See Highway 21 from Highway 13 Junction south to Bashaw
The area has a rich history in the opening up of what is now Alberta, particularly with respect to the fur trade that immediately preceded immigrant settlement. We can therefore regard this area as one consisting of First People, Settler People and New People. The First People were predominantly Plains Cree and Blackfoot, followed later by Metis. The Settler People were predominantly Scandinavian in the Edberg, Ferintosh and New Norway areas, and German between Ferintosh and Bashaw. In time, the immigrant population became more varied up until the present era when the citizenship is quite diverse in terms of ethnic background.
Communities developed in line with homesteading and free land granted by the Government of Canada and after 1905, by the Province of Alberta. Livelihood has been and is currently based primarily on mixed farming with secondary operations emerging recently in sectors such as service, gravel, light construction and oil-related industries and activities. For more detailed information, please consult Battle River Economic Indicators Report (2012).
Selection of research area
For Phase I, we chose the communities of Bashaw, Edberg, Ferintosh, New Norway, Duhamel and surrounding areas. Given our budget, time available and the proximity of the communities, the scope of the project seemed workable in a three month period.
Currently, the vast majority of transportation needs in this region are met solely by the personal automobile with the exception of the Bashaw Bus Society operating a single bus out of the Bashaw Valley Lodge. The Association for Life-Wide Living has been working closely with this organization in order to potentially expand upon its current services and to provide adequate transportation for every individual along Highway 21 between Bashaw and Camrose. On Saturday May 26, 2012 the Bashaw Bus made an inaugural trip to Hardisty to meet their bus service, signaling the first step to one day providing rural transportation services to the entire Battle River Region
Historically, and not so long ago, local area residents who were unable to provide their own transportation have been able to rely on the Greyhound Bus Service, family, friends, and neighbors to meet their transportation needs for periodical access to centers offering necessities such as food, recreation, healthcare and social services. Based on research conducted from May-August 2012, we conclude that continued reliance solely on personal transportation is no longer a sustainable option for many residents in the Bashaw-Camrose Corridor. The Association for Life-Wide Living is confident that the need for adequate rural transportation has never been greater and that the implementation of a Rural Transportation Network needs to be studied in a broader context requiring an ‘action-plan in subsequent phases.
According to current reports and statistics from the recent 2011 Statistics Canada Census, there are 1535 individuals residing in the towns, villages, and hamlets extending from Bashaw along Highway 21 to the Highway 13 Junction. The population number would be higher if we were to include people living on acreages and farms. Given the short duration of the study, time did not allow us to count the number of these people.
Currently, the percentage of the residents ages 65 and older is 21.6%. T figure far exceeds the provincial average of 11.1%, suggesting the needs of the region must be treated differently from other areas with similar population in the province.
Team members of Association for Life Wide-Living of Alberta considered various methodological approaches when determining the best process in which to conduct and implement research. Intensive review was conducted on several previous studies and attempts were made to connect with representatives involved in those studies and the projects that emerged from them:
- City of Edmonton Transit (2011)
- Camrose County Rural Transit Study (2010)
- City of Camrose Transportation Study (2006)
- Wetaskiwin Transit System
- Bashaw and District Regional Health and Wellness Foundation Community Health Survey (1995)
- The Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN)
The Alberta Rural Development Network, an association of universities and colleges of Alberta, also provided significant input in deciding the research method that was ultimately selected. Importantly, they have expressed their willingness to assist with a follow-up, Phase II study, to connect with communities along Highway 13, as well as the process of linking communities, studies and planning.
After initial research and careful consideration, a qualitative approach to conducting research was selected. This was chosen because it best illustrates the scope of this study. This is not a ‘feasibility study’ or a ‘cost benefit analysis’ but simply an expression of need for rural residents of the Battle River Region. Our methodology relies on the knowledge and expertise of local residents. This was done in order to demonstrate the profound transportation and wellness needs of a significant number of citizens in the region on an individual basis.
Our qualitative approach is reinforced by the implementation of the Rapaille Method pioneered by cultural anthropologist Clotaire Rapaille. The significance of his research greatly aided the development and implementation of our methodology. He believes the traditional method of conducting market research is fundamentally flawed and offers a solution to the problem based on Five Principles for uncovering Cultural Codes. He stresses the use of employing the right questions rather than numerous questions to effectively and efficiently conduct research.
There are however, constraints pertaining to methodology. The timeframe was short (May-August) and the project immense for one summer student to undertake. The project was also done under the limitations of a Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) budget. These issues were largely negated by utilizing the help of the communities and willing local residents which became increasingly important as the project gained in both momentum and complexity.
Research Design: Considerations, limitations and benefits
Contacting and engaging communities, individuals and organizations was a primary focus of Phase 1, Rural Transportation Project. Success in any rural initiative relies solely on the support and contributions of local entities, without which such ideas would not be possible. Telephone and email were the primary methods of initially contacting local individuals and organizations in order to make our organization and cause known to the communities and garner initial support and help in conducting research for the study. The help of the communities and local organizations such as the Bashaw Bus Society, Bashaw Hotel, Ferintosh High-U Centre, New Norway Gas Bar, Edberg Senior Drop in Centre, Edberg Village Council, Edberg PublicLibrary, New Norway United Church and Bashaw Health Centre aided greatly in allowing us the use of their facilities in various capacities such as: hosting informal discussions with local residents, distributing Rural Transportation Surveys, and copying bulletins and mailing them to residents. Without the help of local businesses and organizations in the communities, conducting research would have been impossible. The County of Camrose was also gracious enough to allow us the use of an office space throughout the summer which greatly increased the efficiency of the project and allowed a formal work space from which we could conduct research, get in touch with important contacts, and meet with interested individuals involved with the project in a formal setting.
Many of the local residents expressed the same willingness to participate in and help with the conducting of the research. Admittedly, the majority of individuals that were most eager to help were those who had the most to gain from the implementation of a Rural Transportation System. This includes those who currently require adequate public transportation and those who currently transport those who can no longer transport themselves. There were a number of individuals encountered through our interviews and information sessions who volunteered to aid in distributing surveys, preparing meeting places with refreshments, and spreading the word of our initiative throughout their communities.
The most effective method of engaging individuals to ‘open up’ and express their opinions regarding the need for rural transportation and the overall state of their communities was through the group interviews. The group sessions held a number of advantages over personal or 1-on-1 interviews such as:
- The individuals involved in group interviews generally knew the members of the group and were more willing to the comments and ideas of their peers.
- Personal interviews were often conducted with strangers who had no prior knowledge of those conducting the interview and were therefore less likely to give excessive personalinformation.
- Group interviews allowed for numerous ideas and suggestions which could then be used by the other members of the group to formulate abundant responses.
However this is not to say that 1-on-1 interviews did not constitute a valuable research method. The respondents who took the time to partake in personal interviews tended to illustrate the profound transportation needs of their peers. They were also far more likely to candidly speak about the current lack of adequate transportation needs in their communities.
There were also some difficulties experienced with a number of individuals, as there is with any new initiative, who believed that the idea of rural transportation was not worth pursuing further. Most of this resistance to this initiative came from males aged 45-60, though this was not exclusive, simply the majority. This demographic was also the least likely to suggest that they would require rural transportation service in the future.
The research process was officially concluded on Wednesday August 15 with the ‘Rural Transportation Phase 1 Tour’. The tour was designed to educate and engage the participants on the need for rural transportation in the region and illustrate the ‘flavor’ of each community and what they have to offer. This was done from a historical, economic, population, and service perspective. The tour began at the Bashaw Valley Lodge with a presentation on the Town of Bashaw. From there we travelled via the Bashaw Bus to the Edberg Public Library, Ferintosh Hotel, New Norway United Church, and Catholic Church of St. Thomas near Duhamel. The tour was successful and illustrated the need to ensure rural living remains enjoyable and increasingly viable in Battle River Country.
The Research Survey
The Rural Transportation Survey was developed over the course of four weeks after extensive library research and input from Alberta Rural Development (ARDN) members, Augustana (University of Alberta) Professors , MLAs, municipal leaders transportation officials and local individuals in the communities. Careful considerations were made to every detail of the survey, the questions were written in a non-offensive, standardized language, while eliciting thoughtful responses from those surveyed. Some questions that were deemed ‘unimportant’ were phased out in order to maintain a logical flow, ensure a casual feel for respondents, and preserve a reasonable survey length. Surveys that are too long tend to lose their effectiveness with the respondents while at the same time, becoming too cumbersome to be convenient.
The Survey is ultimately designed to engage individuals to think about both the current state of transportation in their respective communities and the current situation in their
community as a whole. The survey also encourages the respondents to discuss whether or not they felt a Rural Transportation Network was necessary and if they would use such a service if provided.
The Survey also encourages the respondents to offer personal accounts of how they meet their transportation needs. This was important because we wanted to emphasize the individuality of ‘his or her’ personal situation regarding transportation, their lives and the region. Our initial assumptions were that we would get a sizeable amount of respondents to the survey and if administered properly, a high percentage of thoughtful information that could be effectively utilized when creating this study. We also expected to see a significant number of individuals illustrating their own personal opinions and needs regarding rural transportation in the region.
What does the research tell us?
The process of accessing and engaging people within their communities and surrounding areas was the most important component of the conducted research. This was done in order to ensure adequate feedback from individuals directly through the use of information sessions, interviews, and telephone calls. Indirect responses were also important and completed through the circulation of the survey itself. This process was significantly aided by local residents, organizations, and businesses willing to distribute the survey on their own accord through word of mouth, going door to door or mentioning a friend or family member with a vested interest in rural transportation.
The distribution of the Rural Transportation Survey yielded 70 responses from individuals in the communities of Bashaw, Edberg, Ferintosh, New Norway, Duhamel and the surrounding areas. This figure is satisfactory for a qualitative study because the respondents tended to give thoughtful responses regarding the need for rural transportation. This indicates that the design of the survey was both effective and efficient in meeting the needs outlined in our methodology. During the circulation of the surveys, we wanted to receive a proportionate number of responses from each community based on their population, overall this criteria was accomplished. The number of respondents in each community is as follows.
Survey respondents according to community
The number of respondents is not high, but it is acceptable and informative, given the qualitative methodology we used. It tells us of the potential transportation needs in the region. Interviews were also conducted with local residents and yielded an excellent array of input and information. The one on one interviews used the survey as a guide for conversation and enabled both the interviewer and interviewee to probe deeply into the subject.
Those being interviewed could ask questions about particular questions while those conducting the interview could elaborate on the survey and identify particular components that were of special conern to the respondent and focues on those issues. These interviews were conducted with a dozen individuals with each community being represented by at least one individual, they offered their knowledge and input regarding the need for rural transportation.
These individuals came from various religious, occupational,age, and enthnic backgrounds and varied on the amount of time spent in the region. This was done to ensure that multiple opinions were heard from individuals representing an array of personal situations in the region. Information sessions were also conducted in the communities in order to attain knowledge from several residents at a given time in an informal, question and debate based format. We did not conduct online surveys due to the unlikelyhood of responses and the fact that we felt it was important to meet with individuals one on one so our efforts did not seem distant or unimportant to the respondents. The personal interviews and information sessions serve to overcome the limitations of conducting research based entirely on surveys. Some of these restrictions are:
Surveys do not encourage debate or dialogue on the topic. For example, one particular information session at the Ferintosh High-U Centre initiated an extensive and educational discussion with the participants regarding rural transportation in which we heard multiple opinions and ideas on both sides of the topic.
2. Surveys do not encourage multiple points of view on the issue.
3. Surveys tend not to illustrate extensive background information to the respondents.
Occasionally this creates a situation where respondents misinterprate both the scope and purpose of the survey.
The survey designed for and used in this project however did establish that there is an inherent need for transportation services in the region. Currently, there is a significant proportion of the population willing to use such a service, as well as a large share who believe ‘it is a good idea’ (figure 1.0). A significant number of respondents also expressed concern over the current state of transportation in their communities. It is also important to emphasize the predominant population demographic that took part in the survey. Thirty percent of respondents were in the 50-59 age range and are entering a time when adequate transportation is becoming a serious concern to their future well-being. There is certainly awareness among our respondents that there is little in the way of viable alternatives to the personal vehicle. An example of the Rural Transportation Survey as designed with consultation from Alberta Rural Development Network and ALL Board Members is as follows.
Association for Life-Wide Living (ALL) of Alberta
Battle River Health Network
Your valuable contribution to this community-driven project will contribute to further developments in rural transport connecting the project communities. It also contributes importantly to the ALL mission which is:
DATE: Day _____________ Month _____________ Year _________
1. Which category below includes your age?
17 or younger 18-20 21-29 30-39 40-49 50-59
60-69 70-79 80-89
2. What is your gender? Female Male
3. Name your community __________________________
4. What comes to mind when you think of transportation?
5. In a typical day, what do you use for transportation?
6. In a typical week, what do you use for transportation?
7. In a typical month, what do you use for transportation?
8. Do you have the transportation you need?
9. Where do you prefer to go to get services?
10. Where do you go most often for:
D. Visiting Family and Friends
11. Can you access healthcare services when you need them?
12. Are you currently dependent on someone to take you to health services?
13. What is your sense of the adequacy of transport for people of all ages in your community?
14. Comment on your sense of your community.
15. If transportation services connecting Highway 21 communities between Bashaw and Camrose were available, would you use them?
Cody Sroka, BA
ALL of Alberta and Battle River Health Network
Grateful acknowledgement is extended to the following organizations for their interest in and support of this project: Bashaw & District Health and Wellness Foundation, Camrose Thrift Store, Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) Province of Alberta, Camrose County and a host of willing volunteers and informants. We are also grateful for generous assistance from the Bashaw Bus Society.
The key statistics from the surveys tells us specific things in relation to the questions that were posed.
Expression of need for rural transportation
Significance of findings
Of those who filled out surveys, 57 people representing 82% of the respondents were over fifty years of age. This figure is highlighted by the fact that only 16 of these individuals were over the age of seventy. So what does this mean? Because the survey was filled out on a voluntary basis, it is clear that there is a vibrant demographic of people who have taken a vested interest in the idea of adequate rural transportation. It also suggests that the need for such a service will continue to increase in the years to come. Within the context of 2012, it is no longer responsible to consider senior citizens strictly in terms of age as it is in fact, a subjective term that can begin far earlier or later than 65. With this in mind, many of those responding to the survey were thinking of their long-term transportation needs as they have already entered or are about to enter senior citizenship.
Those Who Responded ‘No’ to whether or not they would use a rural transportation system if such a system were in place
Of the 35 respondents who answered ‘no’ or ‘indifferent’ (50%) to whether or not they would use a Rural Transportation System if one were to be introduced, 8 conceded that they would, if there circumstances chanced and transportation dependency became necessary; for example, later on in life or if their current means of transportation were no longer available. Every participant who responded no was currently able to transport themselves via their personal vehicle.
Although 50% of respondents stated they would not use a rural transportation service, only 5 individuals expressed concern that adequate rural transportation was a poor idea. The primary concern amongst these individuals was the prospective cost of such a service. However, such an issue is not within the scope of this study. It is important to note that each of these respondents were males between 40-60 years of age. This is intriguing due to the fact 80% of those who responded to the survey were female. Despite the small sample size, the survey suggests that there is a marked difference in the perception of public transportation between men and women in the Battle River Region. There is also a substantial difference between the communities surveyed regarding the proportion of individuals who suggested they would not presently use a rural transportation system. (Figure 3)
Expression of need for rural transportation expressed by Community
This chart illustrates a number of significant factors. The first and most obvious being that there is a discrepancy between communities regarding whether or not their residents believe they would use a rural transportation network. However, within these figures one must take into account that amongst these communities; only Bashaw currently has a service providing some degree of Rural Transportation to its residents. A common theme amongst Bashaw respondents was the value of the Bashaw Bus Society to both the community, and those who are otherwise unable to transport themselves. Such a service does not currently exist in the other communities involved with the study. It would be realistic to infer that if such a service did exist, many residents would in fact understand the net benefits such a service could offer their community. Essentially, if they never had access to alternative forms of transportation, they are less likely to think they would use it.
Individual accounts and personal interpretations according to the communities
The survey was successful in initiating numerous professional responses from individuals both for and against the implementation of a Rural Transportation System. These responses came from a wide variety of individuals, many of whom currently require adequate transportation or know and work with people who stand to improve their quality of life from such a service. An alarming number of respondents also highlighted their ominous personal transportation problems in the area. The primary concern for many of these individuals was sufficient access to routine medical services, food, leisure, and social services.
New Norway resident (1)
I work in the field of healthcare and know there is a need for transportation in rural areas. People that have any type of disability are limited in daily needs due to lack of transportation; I support some type of transportation.
A number of younger individuals from New Norway also chose to express their opinions through personal interviews. It was interesting to note that their primary point of concern was based on the feasibility of a rural lifestyle for both themselves and upcoming generations. This concern is borne out in some of their direct comments.
As a young person I get asked all the time why I chose to leave the small town of New Norway. I loved living in a small rural community. I loved knowing my neighbors. But it came impractical for me to live there. As a young person just finished their undergraduate degree, indeed to have access to jobs and without a car or some other form of rural transportation I can't find work. Moving to a large city like Edmonton, Calgary or Red Deer became my only options to find employment within field of expertise. I do not have the money to purchase a vehicle at this time and moving to Camrose seemed silly because Camrose doesn't have a transportation system either. I had to think about my future and the idea of living in a community where I could potentially be isolated due to a lack of transportation system was horrifying. When I get older and start a family, I want them to be able to have access to the amenities of large urban centers, like even a hospital.
Bashaw resident (1)
Educate the communities that this service would be for everyone and hopefully financially feasible. Maybe more support for low income seniors and families. Thank you for getting involved to help make rural Alberta a better home and easier for us all.
Bashaw resident (2)
Who is going to pay? I am an old person, but not on employment insurance. I do not want a program for loafers who get everything for free.
Edberg resident (1)
If Camrose had a bus service, going to Camrose via rural transportation would be alright however, at the moment you really need a car to get around Camrose.
This respondent highlighted an issue that was encountered on several occasions throughout the duration of our research. Many individuals felt that the transportation services in Camrose were not adequate to compliment a rural transit service. There are many families and individuals who need to come to Camrose for many basic services.
There were also a number of comments from Edberg and area stakeholders regarding an existing service providing transportation services in the Battle River Region which is The Bashaw Bus Society; this service currently operates a single bus out of the Bashaw Valley Lodge.
I truly hope we never lose this wonderful service, we are so lucky and fortunate to have it. If it went to Camrose more I would take it. It would be nice to be able to have it go 3-4 times in a week especially at the end of the month after our cheques come in instead of before. I realize the months are different, so I plan around it, so I guess all is good. Thank you!
The need for adequate rural transportation services along Highway 21 was inherently obvious in many of the responses received from rural residents; however it was also noted as a primary concern in the one on one interviews conducted with local residents of the sample communities.
Edberg resident (2)
One Edberg resident is currently in such dire need for adequate rural transportation that living in the village will no longer continue to be a viable option unless some form of rural transportation is not implemented in the near future. A summary of the conversation with the resident is as follows:
This woman is 81 years of age. She holds a masters degree from McGill University, she has taught in a number of countries, she is a world traveler and cosmopolitan as well as local in her views and values. She is politically astute and amply able to read policy and understand it. While she loves the Village of Edberg and the rural living that it provides, she is unable to drive and therefore relies on the goodwill of neighbors or her roommate to travel to basic services such as healthcare, food, and leisure activities. The account she gave on her current state of transportation was nothing short of eye-opening and it became inherently clear early on in our discussions that she had given the subject considerable thought as she is adversely affected by her immobility on a daily basis.
Consider for a moment, the current situation of this individual. As 81 years of age, she currently relies solely on her roommate or neighbours to provide her transportation needs. Unfortunately, her roommate is moving out soon which means that she will once again be almost completely sedentary, relying solely on neighbors and friends to provide her basic services. By her own account, making numerous phone calls or going door to door is a humiliating way of attaining basic services and does not contribute to quality of life or her own mental and social health status.
When looking at healthcare in a holistic manner, both for this individual and others in the regions who do not provide their own transportation, living alone without adequate transportation is straining both mentally and physically. One of the common themes expressed in the surveys and interviews is the potential increased sense of independence a transportation system would provide, particularly for seniors. She expressed genuine concern about the fact she will undoubtedly be forced to move into Camrose once her roommate leaves as meeting her transportation needs will simply become far too difficult. Please note here that we use the word “forced” not “chose” to describe her situation. This is because the continuing centralization of both the population and basic services in Alberta ensures that rural living is not currently a viable option for every segment of society.
This individual also expressed the belief that she and others could be more involved with both Edberg and other communities if a transportation system was present. Such a service would alleviate the isolation she, along with other individuals in similar situations, experiences on a daily basis. She does not necessarily feel completely cut off from the other residents of Edberg, but rather feels burdensome by continually asking them to provide her transportation. She believes a rural transportation system would allow for suitable access to community events in the Battle River Region and thus provide greater opportunity for socialization. The means of a rural transportation itself would also act as an opportunity for socialization between patrons.
The most staggering element of her current situation is undoubtedly the grim prospects of a potential emergency. She expressed genuine fear about her fate in such a situation. Some local residents do call to check up on her but not frequently enough to prove effective in an emergency situation. If she were unable to get to or operate a telephone, there would be essentially nothing to come to her aid.
The personal input expressed by this individual may seem like an extreme example regarding the insufficient state of rural transportation in Alberta; however there are numerous citizens in rural communities who experience the same situation on a daily basis. This lifestyle is indeed sedentary and marked by isolation, fear, and boredom. This existence is not uncommon in both Alberta and the Battle River Region. Unfortunately it is a situation that is entirely preventable and continues to exist solely through inaction by individuals, communities, and governments.
Considerations of Research Design
What would the Battle River Region look like with a Rural Transportation Network?
Imagine every individual was completely self-reliant to meet their transportation needs. Also imagine accessible, sustainable, and thriving communities where adequate transportation is no longer an issue for every resident.
Common knowledge tells us there are numerous social advantages connected to the potential establishment of a Rural Transportation Network along Highway 21 between Bashaw and Camrose. Many families and individuals who are of lower incomes, declining skills, mental disabilities or individuals who are elderly would experience a greater sense of independence from such a service as they would no longer require assistance from neighbors, friends, or family for transportation to and from basic services. A transportation system will also allow many groups, whose transportation needs are not adequately met to have greater access to social, leisure, and health services.
The research process itself contributed to social interest within and amongst the communities concerned. For example, some stakeholders volunteered to become involved in the further research of Phase 2 along Highway 13. Others volunteered their services for the fall Conference-Gathering at Lone Prairie Camp on Red Deer Lake: A Festival of Ideas: Culture, Creativity and Place in Battle River Country.
Community sustainability considerations
A rural transportation service will also aid in the sustainability of the communities along Highway 21 as it would increase the livability of the communities for residents lacking personal transportation. It has become common to see residents forced to leave smaller communities once they no longer have the means to provide their own transportation or who rely solely on family members, or other local residents to travel to Camrose or Bashaw for the most basic of amenities. Subsequently, the communities will be more sustainable and likely see a marked increase in population.
We could go further and comment on how the research process itself seemed to encourage many residents. The fact that their small community – or they as individuals – we sought out for “research” stimulated conversations about the value of their communities, the resources and opportunities their communities contain, what their communities can offer in the way of lifestyle, affordable housing and lifestyle. Although these considerations were not specifically factored into this report, much more could be said about the way in which this project contributed to matters of community sustainability.
Public Transportation is an inherently safer alternative to the personal vehicle for a number of reasons. There will be a professional driver in charge of the patrons which lessens the likelihood of distracted drivers on the road; it will lower the amount of drivers preparing for work, exhausted after a shift, or on their cellphones. Public Transportation also lowers the amount of vehicles on the road at any given time, subsequently lowering the likelihood of collisions. It could also act as a viable option for those who may have an operators’ license, but are uncomfortable driving on the highway or in urban centers such as Camrose. There are also a significant number of ‘frail seniors’ and disabled living in rural communities by choice however, they lack sufficient and adequate access to healthcare services when needed. This group includes those living alone or who are solely reliant on others (friends, family or neighbors) to access not only healthcare services, but basic necessities of life as well.
Health and wellbeing considerations
Public Transportation can act as a proactive measure for healthcare, effective communication between transportation services, clinics, and hospitals will ensure that patrons of the Rural Transportation Network could access medical appointments with increased consistency, as well as on their own accord. Of course, weather also plays an integral role in any discussion around transportation in Alberta. Public Rural Transportation will eliminate many of the dangers involved with winter driving as it will safely transport a large number of individuals using the safety of a large vehicle and a professional driver.
The Canada Health Act and what it promises
Where adequate rural transportation is concerned, it is time for rural citizens, public administrators and government officials to be more informed about the Canada Health Act (CHA) and deliberate in expectations concerning the constitutional rights of all Canadians, rural Canadians and rural Albertans included.
The Canada Health Act (1984) is Canada's federal legislation for publicly funded health care. Key features or pillars of the Act are to provide health care to Canadians that are:
- publicly administered
- comprehensive (in coverage)
- universal (everyone entitled to same services and coverage)
- portable (should go to the people or provide for the people to get to services)
- accessible (equally to all and by all Canadians, including rural Albertans).
The Alberta Health Action Plan 2010-2014
The ‘new’ Alberta Health Action Plan brought down in late 2010 promises a great deal to Albertans: increased services, decreased wait times, more and better consultation and room for community-based input into decision procedures. Concerning the provisions of The Canada Health Act, the issues of universality, portability and accessibility to health services needs to be addressed more and better.
Reports from many rural citizens indicate that many in need of health services have been told by health workers that they “will have to move to an urban centre”.
It is unfortunate that rural residents
With respect to the ongoing trend towards centralization of health services in Alberta, the implementation of a rural transportation network appears of utmost importance in order to keep citizens healthy, long-term. by ensuring they have adequate and regular access to healthcare and other services for wellbeing. Improving access will help to quickly identify and alleviate potential health and other social risks.
Innovation stands as one of the four pillars of Alberta Health Services who define innovation in a number of ways including, ‘a different lens applied to an old problem leading to new insights and improvement’.
It seems apparent that an initiative for a rural transportation project fits this definition and is indeed a new way of looking at and aligning transportation with healthcare and other socio-economic issues such as quality of life in the Battle River Region.
Quality of Life
Rural living is an integral element of Alberta’s identity, history, and allure. Until recently, Alberta was a predominantly rural province where communities of various sizes worked together to overcome their issues. Rural settlements offered an unrivalled sense of community and involvement to their residence. Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly difficult for residents with lower incomes, no personal transportation, or families with inadequate transportation to experience an acceptable quality of life in rural communities. We are now seeing a marked decrease in the number of businesses offering essential services (groceries, education, healthcare, social interaction) in rural communities along Highway 21.
As reported above, in some cases, individuals reported being told they would “just have to move into town” if and when they need specific treatments and services, including access to food procurement. We believe this is a patronizing and unkind attitude; that it in effect represents a type of human abuse. This attitude also goes against the increasing efforts by federal and provincial governments alike to “redevelop”, “revitalize”, “re-energize” rural areas.
From the perspective of this study and the people who contributed to it, it is desirable to build on the resources and existing qualities of rural life. It is the systems that have attenuated the quality of rural life and lifestyle, not rural citizens themselves.
The availability of a rural transportation network could help create a situation that fosters population growth, renewal of business, and ultimately flourishing rural communities by having more to offer the segments of society that could otherwise not live there. Indeed, there are many individuals and families who prefer the rural lifestyle and the pleasures it has to offer.
Based on interviews from rural stakeholders, Association for Life-Wide Living (ALL) of Alberta has identified transportation as a profound concern in rural Alberta along Highway 21 in the communities surveyed, namely, Bashaw, Edberg, Ferintosh, New Norway, and Duhamel. Results of the study show there are numerous demographic variables with individuals across the life span who identify the need for the development of a rural transportation system. Currently, with the exception of the Bashaw Bus, the personal automobile or that of friends or family members, is relied on as the main source of transportation for the majority of individuals surveyed within this region. Having to rely on personal transportation methods is not a practical or a secure option to those who are elderly, for those who do not have a driver’s license or for those who do not have access to a vehicle, let alone for those who have deteriorating health. Therefore, it becomes increasingly apparent that having access to a rural transportation system would help alleviate some of the stress put on individuals who reside in these rural areas of The Battle River Region.
Although the majority of those surveyed stated that there is a need for a rural transportation system, the research conducted also demonstrates there is are yet many people who would not be willing to use such a service at the present time and based on their current circumstances. There is also a small number of people who feel that a transportation service would not be needed.
Different case samples provided show that there is in an inherent need for this type of service in the present as well as for in the future. The success of small rural communities heavily relies on having community members be accessible for necessary services, such as the health care and food and leisure services. As previously mentioned, the study conducted is not a feasibility study or a market oriented study; the purpose of the study was to show there is a significant need for rural transportation system within the Battle River Region. There are individuals and families who do not require transportation services; however, when the population is examined on a personal and qualitative basis, it becomes apparent that the rural way of life is no longer a viable option for many residents of Alberta.
The need for rural transportation is an issue that affects numerous Albertans and touches their families, friends, and neighbors. Everyone in the survey is aware of or personally knows an individual or family that struggles on a daily basis to acquire the most basic of services simply because they are unable to provide personal transportation. Undue reliance on the personal vehicle is not a viable option in rural Alberta as long as basic necessities for quality of life become increasingly centralized in larger urban communities. The findings of this Phase I rural transportation project provide a base for further study and planning in another set of communities, as well as follow-up with the communities of this phase. It is also important to stay in touch with residents and organizations in Bashaw, Duhamel, Edberg, Ferintosh and New Norway, advocating for and networking with them. Rural people and rural communities are resourceful and, if provided appropriate support, they can sustain and improve their communities and their health and wellbeing.
ALL Board Recommendations
Based on the research and report done by Cody Sroka, and our own involvement in the project, the ALL Board of Directors agreed to these recommendations at a board meeting on September 20, 2012:
● Maintain and expand commitment to understanding change in a holistic and informed way
● Continue to regard and expand understanding of the need for rural transportation as an
Intergenerational matter in need of policy support.
● Further cultivate linkages and alliances with other organizations along lines of common interest for the next project phase (s): e.g.:
- Bashaw Bus Society
- Bashaw & District Health and Wellness Foundation
- Alberta Rural Development Network
- Indian Association of Alberta
- Counties, Towns and other jurisdictions
● Ramp up attention to the provisions of the Canada Health Act (e.g., note which transportation services are part of the legislation and where contraventions occur) and seek to follow through on their application
● Maintain continuous assessment of how provisions of the Alberta Health Action Plan are or are not being applied in rural areas and for rural citizens
● Engage young people and mentor them to understand policy, ask difficult questions and stay the course until they are heard and satisfactory solutions are in place
● Establish collaboration and joint ventures with history academics and popular historians
to expand and deepen understanding of local human resources and histories and the impact of local history on current attitudes, expectations and willingness to contribute
● Need to continue relationship building with the communities and organizations concerned with a view to building and expanding on Summer 2012 base
● Increase and expand communications on the subject of rural transportation at all levels, including through social media and government briefings
● Sustain gains that have been made, refine focus and strengthen strategic actions
● Align activities with ALL mission: inspiring creativity for health through our landscape, our communities and the arts.
Alberta Health Action Plan 2010- 2014 Retrieved from
Alberta Health Services, Rural Health Planning Sessions. Bashaw, Camrose, Daysland. June 2012.
Bashaw and District Regional Health and Wellness Foundation. Community Health Survey (December, 1995. Unpublished).
Battle River Alliance for Economic Development. Battle River Country Alberta, Reap the Benefits. Date not provided. Killam, Alberta.
Byron King (Wetaskiwin Community Transportation Society Coordinator.
City of Camrose Transit Feasibility Study (Final Report), D.A. Watt Consulting. October, 2006.
Camrose County Transit Study 2010.
Canada Health Act http://www.canadian-healthcare.org/page2.html
Hon. Doug Griffiths. MLA. Battle River-Wainwright, Minister of Municipal Affairs. Consultation at Daysland, June 2, 2012.
Government of Alberta. Battle River Economic Indicators Report. March 2012. http://www.albertacanada.com/RD-CED_BattleRiverRegion.pdf
Ken Koropeski, Edmonton Transit Director of Service Development. Consultation May 2012.
Rapaille, Clotaire. The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy As They Do. Broadway Books: NY. 2007.
Dr. Paul Watson, Research Director, Alberta Rural Development Network. Consultation, June 2012.
Statistics Canada. 2012. Camrose County, Alberta (Code 4810001) and Alberta (Code 48) (table). Census Profile. 2011 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-316-XWE. Ottawa. Released September 19, 2012. http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/dp-pd/prof/index.cfm?Lang=E
Hon. Verlyn Olson. MLA (Wetaskiwin-Camrose) Minister of Agriculture for Alberta.