Connector bus depots close, travelers forced to wait in the cold, purchase tickets online

Denise Titian, December 3, 2019

Ahousaht Ha’wilth Rocky Titian is on the waiting list for a kidney transplant due to Type 2 diabetes. He and his wife Maryanne rely on the bus service for medical appointments in Courtenay and Vancouver. (Maryanne Titian/Facebook photo)

Port Alberni, BC — 

Wilson’s transportation has announced the closure of its Port Alberni bus depot located at 4541 Margaret Street, effective Nov. 30, 2019.

Starting Dec. 1, 2019, travelers can catch the bus around the corner at the 7-Eleven convenience store located 4934 Johnston Road. In addition to the change of the pickup/drop off location, there will no longer be a ticket agent. Instead, passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets online using credit cards or Visa debit cards.

Tickets may be purchased directly from bus drivers using cash or credit cards. However, passengers run the risk of missing their bus if all of the seats were sold online prior to their arrival.

Ahousaht Ha’wilth Rocky Titian is on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. He and his wife Maryanne are regular bus travelers as they attend medical appointments in Courtenay and Vancouver.

“The hardest part is waiting,” said Maryanne, adding that they often stand in the rain waiting for buses in Tofino.

With the closure of several bus depots, the couple can spend as many as three hours waiting outdoors for bus connections.

“I just wish they had proper places to wait,” said Maryanne. “Our clothes get wet, his medications get wet and we have to sit on the bus with cold, wet clothes.”

For appointments in Courtenay, which is about an hour drive from Port Alberni, the couple must take the long bus route to Nanaimo to make their transfers back north to Courtenay.

“Sometimes we wait three hours outside,” said Maryanne.

Michelle Campbell works in the Ahousaht Administration Medical department making medical travel arrangements for members. She says that both bus depots in Tofino and Ucluelet closed several weeks ago, wreaking havoc on bus travelers unaware of the changes.

For Ahousaht patients living on Flores Island a trip to town begins with a boat ride to Tofino. The Tofino Bus is heavily used by those that don’t have their own vehicles and the bus depot used to be within walking distance of the dock, in central Tofino.

Now passengers are directed to go to the Tofino Tourist Information Centre at 1426 Pacific Rim Highway, a distance of seven kilometers outside of town, to catch their bus.

“We learned the hard way how to get our passengers on the bus,” said Campbell, after hearing from angry, stranded members.

For Ahousaht patients traveling by bus, Campbell contacts Wilson Transportation and reserves seats, asking that the passengers be picked up in town at the Co-op parking lot.

“We send them a purchase order and they issue confirmation numbers which we give to the patients,” Campbell said. Wilson Transportation then bills the nation.

Rocky Titian says he just has to give his name and confirmation number to the bus driver.

“But I saw an old lady that tried to get on the bus; she didn’t have the right change and couldn’t get on the bus,” he said. He added that he doesn’t do online banking either and neither do many seniors.

As of Dec. 1, travelers heading to the west coast by bus must catch their ride at the 7-Eleven parking lot at 4934 Gertrude Street.

Breanna Green of VIConnector encourages people to purchase their tickets online to reserve a seat.

“They may use a major credit card or a debit Visa card,” she told Ha-Shilth-Sa. Bus drivers can take cash payments, but it’s first come, first served for walk-ups.

For more information about local bus schedules go to VIConnector.com or call 1-866-986-3456. The bus service provides daily scheduled bus trips on Vancouver Island from Victoria to Port Hardy.