The Vancouver Island Connector along with the Tofino Bus will not be resuming service this month and will remain suspended until further notice. Black Press file photo

The Vancouver Island Connector along with the Tofino Bus will not be resuming service this month and will remain suspended until further notice. Black Press file photo

Suspended bus service sparks concern across Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island Connector will not be resuming service this month

News that the Island’s ground transportation service—the Vancouver Island Connector—will not be resuming service this month has left a void in remote Vancouver Island communities.

On a service update posted to its website, Wilson’s Transportation said the Connector, along with the Tofino Bus, will remain suspended until further notice.

“Due to COVID-19, work and travel restrictions, revenue on these routes has been down 95 per cent since March 2020. While the Tofino Bus intercity bus service provides the same essential service as public transit, as a privately-owned company without any government subsidies, it depends on ticket sales to cover all costs.”

READ MORE: Island’s ground transportation service coming to a halt

The company noted it has asked for a one-year emergency COVID-19 recovery contract from the Ministry of Transportation to cover operation costs for the Tofino Bus and allow it to resume the service, but it has not yet been successful.

After hearing the news, Port Alberni resident and former City of Port Alberni councillor Chris Alemany sent a letter to the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) board, encouraging the district to take a leading role in connecting Port Alberni and the West Coast with the rest of the Island with regular bus service.

“If COVID relief funding can go toward this initiative I think it would be a very appropriate use of it to get it off the ground quickly,” he noted in his letter. “This is not something that can wait for months and years of planning and consultation. In the long term I see it as an economic driver for tourism as well as the social and economic well-being of our population in general.”

During a board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 10, the ACRD board agreed to invite Wilson’s Transportation to a future board meeting to discuss the future of bus service in the regional district.

In a later interview, Alemany said the problem has been a long time coming.

“Privatized bus services have been diminishing for a really long time—decades, really,” he said. “The pandemic has exacerbated their issues.”

Although COVID-19 has reduced the number of people taking the bus, said Alemany, the service still has customers.

“People need to get around,” he said. “They need to be able to get to their health appointments, to see their family. Even with COVID, people still need to go shopping. Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to get around Vancouver Island without a car.”

Alemany has been using the Regional District of Nanaimo’s bus service for the past 10-15 years to commute to and from work. However, there is still no public bus service connecting Port Alberni to the east coast of the Island.

READ MORE: Bus service between Port Alberni, East Vancouver Island considered

“I see many people hitchhiking on Highway 4,” he said. “There are people who hitchhike everyday. That’s not safe, and it’s not equitable.”

Dr. Judith Sayers, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC) president, says that that suspension of the bus service is “concerning” for Nuu-chah-nulth people.

“It’s an essential service,” she said. “It’s critical to get our communities from place to place. We worry about people’s ability to get around. We worry about the safety of our women on the roads, because a lot of them hitchhike.”

The news comes at the same time as a few groups on Vancouver Island are hanging red dresses at prominent locations to raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

READ MORE: Red dresses hang across Vancouver Island to keep missing women front of mind

Sayers noted that the Vancouver Island Connector serves 21 First Nations communities on the Island. The NTC provides support and services for 14 nations, with about 10,000 members.

“One of our biggest concerns is if the bus service goes down, will there be anyone to step in to provide that service again?” Sayers wondered. “People aren’t taking the bus right now because of COVID, but that’s not going to be forever.”

Alemany does not believe this is the end of the Vancouver Island Connector, but he says there is still a need for public transit to connect remote communities across the Island.

“I think there’s a tourism market for [the Vancouver Island Connector],” he said. “I don’t think it’s been viable as public transit.”

The Vancouver Island Connector has been in operation since 2015 providing daily scheduled services to Vancouver Island communities from Victoria to Campbell River. In addition to the Tofino Bus, it also provided ground shipping to Vancouver and across the Island.

Wilson’s Transportation said it will continue to work with the provincial government to restore the service, but is asking communities—particularly those which are served by the Tofino Bus—to contact their MLA about the loss of service.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

— with files from Erin Haluschak



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictPORT ALBERNIpublic transit

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hannah Ankenmann, who works with k’awat’si Economic Development Corporation, winces as she received her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine administered by a Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Family Health nurse. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
North Island to get community wide vaccine clinics

Island Health will take a whole of community approach to immunization.

Port Hardy mayor Dennis Dugas. (Dennis Dugas photo)
Port Hardy mayor advocates for fish farm industry, talks impact on North Island

The Discovery Islands closures will certainly have an effect on Port Hardy, says Dugas.

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

Debra Lynn photo
Mysterious smoke cloud seen in Seavac Centre

Fire crews did a thorough sweep of the centre.

North Island Gazette file photo of Port McNeill council.
Heated conversation occurs at Port McNeill council over policy request

Port McNeill mayor Gaby Wickstrom wants to see a change in the… Continue reading

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Anyone with information is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or submitting a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.
21-year-old motorbike rider dies after crash with ATV on Nanaimo back road

Incident happened Sunday afternoon near Boomerang Lake

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complains about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

(BC SPCA)
Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Cole Moore with one of his sisters, Jasmin Moore. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island man looks to brain surgery for second chance

Fingers crossed that procedure can give Cole Moore a new lease on life after decade of seizures

Health Minister Adrian Dix, front, B.C. Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrive for a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, March 6, 2020. Pandemic emergency measures have been in place for almost a year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. officials plead for patience as 1.7 million COVID-19 calls flood in

Vaccine registration for 90-plus seniors opened Monday

A West Kootenay man died in an avalanche on March 4 while snowmobiling near Mount Payne, which is indicted by the red flag. Illustration: Google Maps
B.C. father of 3 dead after avalanche in West Kootenay

The man was snowmobiling with a group when incident occurred March 4

Most Read