La Ronge friendship centre launches free bus services to Prince Albert

The vans were originally purchased for the Kikinahk Headstart program, but have been underutilized since a new bus was purchased for the program -- Kikinahk Friendship Centre/Facebook

A local friendship centre in La Ronge is looking to pick up where the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) left off with a new shuttle service offering trips to Prince Albert.

The Kikinahk Friendship Centre is launching the free busing program on Oct. 3, with the service open to anyone needing to travel back and forth from La Ronge to Prince Albert, with priority going to students and those with medical appointments.

Executive Director Ron Woytowich said he received the approval on Monday and is still working out the finer details, but hopes to have the service run for six days a week, Sunday to Friday. Though drop off and pick up locations are not concrete yet, the proposed delivery site is set to be the City of Prince Albert transit station.

He also said they are working out the ability to do direct drop-offs at the hospital for those that need it.

Woytowich hopes the new service will help those that are forced to hitchhike the 214-kilometre-long journey that are in need of medical care or need to visit friends or family in the hospital.

“We’re in the North. It’s bad enough in the summertime when you’re driving and you see all these people hitchhiking down south, they have to worry about rain, bad weather and bears. But in the wintertime, it’s bloody cold,” he said. “You’re stuck out on the highway, and nobody is picking you up and quite frankly, there’s 100 kilometres at a time where there’s no buildings. We miss the bus service, the STC coming up here.”

The transportation service will utilize three 15-passenger vans once more interested drivers are found to help run the program.

“I have one driver already, I’m still looking for a couple more because its 12-hour shifts,” he said. “I’ve got a feeling it will materialize.”

Drivers will depart La Ronge in the morning and spend the day in Prince Albert, before coming back to the community in the evening.

Woytowich was able to secure federal dollars to fund the new program, which will run until the end of March. If the trial run finds a continued need for service, more grants will be pursued to keep it running in the future.