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

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

It’s been almost a year since the last public performance inside the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Lead donors pledge $60,000 in matching campaign at the Chemainus Theatre

Perrys, Hiltons and Duncan Iron Works help to Bridge the Gap during COVID shutdown

Doug Routley is the chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act. (File photo)
Routley selected chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA acknowledges there will be a lot of material to process

Beautiful flowers spring up on Thetis Island during February. (Photo by Kelly Bannister)
Weather conditions cover the full spectrum in February

The only thing missing from the region was a more summerlike feel

Police are investigating after a man was killed at a home on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police investigating early-morning murder in Duncan

One arrested after man killed at Cowichan Lake Road home

Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about phase two in B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization plan as Premier John Horgan and Minister Arian Dix look on during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. reports 438 new COVID cases, 2 deaths

Long-term care outbreaks are decreasing

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

Needles are seen on the ground in Oppenheimer park in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on March 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s chief coroner says increased drug toxicity responsible for record overdose deaths in January

165 people – the largest number of lives lost due to illicit drugs in the first month of a calendar year

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

Vancouver and Victoria both have a MySafe machine to help reduce overdoses

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Most Read