Bus riders on Vancouver Island are the latest victims of BC’s patchwork approach to inter-community bus services. Privately-owned Wilson’s Group just mothballed its daily Tofino Bus between Victoria and Tofino (and a monthly connector run to Campbell River). Left without bus service are riders at 50 stops up and down Vancouver Island, including 21 Indigenous communities. The loss of inter-community bus service is devastating to rural and remote communities.
Wilson’s says it will only restart the Tofino Bus for the more profitable summer season starting in May. This latest bad news shouldn’t come as a surprise. Wilson’s Group already got a $2.6 million bailout from the provincial government after threatening to abandon the Tofino Bus in 2021. Longtime BC bus riders might be feeling some déjà vu remembering the 2018 pullout by Greyhound Bus Lines. After years of cherry picking the busiest routes and gutting the less profitable and more remote ones in BC, the company pulled up stakes and left the province high and dry. Ironically, just before leaving in 2018, Greyhound gave Tofino Bus “permission” to take over its remaining routes on Vancouver Island.
Instead of throwing good money after bad bailing out private inter-city and rural operators, Let’s Ride! believes the provincial government should now use some of the massive surplus earmarked for wider highways and new bridges to work on making public transit available to all British Columbians. We already have the vehicle – BC Transit. The Crown corporation is answerable to the people of BC and has a mandate to “coordinate the delivery of public transportation across BC.” It already serves 130 communities efficiently with services not driven into the ground by corporate profit margins. It’s time to expand BC Transit to all communities in BC. Citizens have the right to travel – for work, for school, for family and for medical appointments. Many of us already enjoy safe, reliable bus service – let’s expand it so it is available to all.
We need a province-wide transit system responsible to the public, not company shareholders. That way we can ensure we are getting the safest, cleanest, most forward-looking, eco-friendliest and best managed bus system available.
Maybe the next step should be reminding the BC NDP that they were once a champion of public services and could be again.
For background see: