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

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 80+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in fatal Chemainus hit-and-run

Investigation expected to be lengthy and involved

The Cowichan Women Against Violence Society is planning on opening a child and youth advocacy centre. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Child and youth advocacy centre eyed for Cowichan

Cowichan Women Against Violence Society hopes to open centre later this year

CVRD to apply for a grant to improve a 4.85-kilometre section of the Cowichan Valley Trail near Shawnigan Lake. (File photo)
CVRD looks to improve section of Cowichan Valley Trail

District applies for $250,000 grant to widen, upgrade 4.8-kilometre section in Shawnigan Lake

Cowichan Valley writer Jennifer Manuel will headlining YakFest on March 1. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Cowichan Valley writer to headline next YakFest on March 1

YakFest is a B.C.-based monthly women’s event held online via Zoom

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

Most Read