Just as west coast residents began scrambling for alternative transportation after Tofino Bus announced suspended services last month, Islandlink comes to the rescue.
“Islandlink will start offering bus service between Nanaimo and Tofino three times a week starting on January 30, 2023,” they stated in a news release dated Jan. 12.
This comes as welcome news to residents of outlying communities who rely on the bus service to get to medical appointments in the region’s cities. The bus will also stop at intermediate points in Ucluelet and Port Alberni.
In the Jan. 12 issue of Ha-Shilth-Sa, Vancouver Island Connector, the company that operates Tofino Bus, announced that it would suspend passenger bus service between Port Alberni and Tofino/Ucluelet for the remainder of winter. They cited low ridership in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as the cause for the suspension of service. They say they will resume service sometime in May 2023.
Hesquiaht and Tla-o-qui-aht representatives noted that the lack of bus services would impact their patient travel programs, hurting seniors and low-income families that rely on the service to get to town.
“A lot of people rely on the service for medical and to get to town, and this is the most economical way to do it,” said Tla-o-qui-aht Chief Elmer Frank.
Hesquiaht Community Health Representative Nora Lucas stated that the unexpected suspension of bus service forced some residents of Hot Springs Cove to cancel appointments in towns and cities.
“This is most definitely a problem as most of our people travel by bus,” said Lucas.
Tofino Bus said they’ve seen a 95 percent drop I ridership since the start of the pandemic.
With access to smaller buses, IslandLink believes it can run a profitable service.
“We’ve looked at the numbers, and with our 15-passenger vehicles, we’re able to add this service,” said Phillip Morgan, IslandLink owner.
Beginning Jan. 30, 2023, IslandLink will run its new route between Nanaimo and Tofino three times a week.
In a news release, IslandLink says its Nanaimo/Tofino route will connect with the Departure Bay BC Ferries terminal in Nanaimo.
The service will increase on May 18 to daily service and will operate year-round.
IslandLink has been in operation for nearly 25 years, starting in 1998 bringing passengers from Qualicum Beach, French Creek and Parksville to the Departure Bay Ferry terminal. The service was designed to be a connector for foot passengers on the BC Ferry system.
“This remains the focus of our service today serving four BC Ferries terminals: Departure Bay, Little River, Buckley Bay and Campbell River to provide connecting bus transportation for ferry foot passengers.
IslandLink carries over 50,000 passengers a year, operates up to 14 buses all equipped with free wi-fi. Buses are clean and comfortable with seat belts on every seat.
For schedules or more information about IslandLink, go to www.islandlinkbus.com