Bus passengers on Vancouver Island won’t notice a difference in service once Greyhound cuts its route between Nanaimo and Victoria, says Dylan Green, president of Tofino Bus. Green’s company—which offers Island-wide passenger service between Port Hardy and Victoria, and out to the west coast—already has a busy route between the two cities, and is poised to expand once Greyhound makes its cuts.
The B.C. Passenger Transportation Board on Feb. 21 approved Greyhound’s request to cut service to nine routes across B.C., including Victoria–Nanaimo.
In August 2017, Greyhound Canada applied to the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board to discontinue its service between Victoria and Nanaimo, citing declining ridership as its primary reason. Tofino Bus was approved in November 2017 to expand its service already in place between Nanaimo and Victoria to include smaller communities along the route, including Mill Bay, Cobble Hill, Cowichan Bay, Duncan, Chemainus, Ladysmith and Departure Bay in Nanaimo.
Green said has been expecting a decision to come down for a few months. He said their business has increased as the public has heard rumours about Greyhound’s cuts—and many already believed Greyhound had ceased service between the two cities.
“We’ve actually been quite busy,” he said. “Almost a third of our traffic is passengers trying to get to Victoria.”
Former commuter Peter Brust of Duncan says he sees a need for bus service between Nanaimo and Victoria, even though BC Transit already offers a commuter bus between Nanaimo and Cowichan. Brust said a couple of years ago he took the Greyhound bus regularly for work and shopping trips. The route to Victoria was popular, he added, with a range of users from families and youth to seniors.
Tofino Bus already makes three runs a day between Nanaimo and Victoria, with an extra on Fridays and Sundays. Once Greyhound cuts its run between the same cities, Tofino Bus will increase the Nanaimo–Victoria runs to four times a day and five times on Fridays and Sundays.
This is not the first time Tofino Bus has expanded its service on Vancouver Island. They took over Greyhound’s bus service into Port Alberni in 2006, and in 2015 when Greyhound abandoned service to Courtenay, Campbell River and Port Hardy, Tofino Bus applied for and was accepted to include those cities on its licence. The company has also taken over management of the Duncan bus terminal.
“It’s been easy for us to do because we’ve done it in stages,” Green said. “Of all the times we’ve had to grow, this one is the easiest because we’re already there. It will be seamless.”
Tofino bus began in 2002 as a van service catering to surfers, transporting them and their gear from Nanaimo and Victoria out to Tofino on Vancouver Island’s west coast. Green was a student at the University of Victoria at the time, in his mid-20s, and frustrated that Greyhound charged extra for surfboards for its already-expensive route out to Tofino. Green purchased an 11-seat passenger van and started running his own shuttle on weekends, between hostels in Victoria and Tofino.
“It was popular right away, even outside of the backpacking crowd,” Green told BC Business in an 2008 interview. Island people looking for a way to get up and down Vancouver Island also booked his shuttle service.
Since then, Green has expanded Tofino bus to include 31 buses and motor coaches based in numerous bus terminals. “We’re employing 45 people year-round across the Island. We’ve grown quite a bit from our origins,” Green said.
“We really have become an Island bus company.”
Tofino Bus serves 42 communities, and it’s that network that gives Green confidence he will succeed where Greyhound did not. “It’s that whole network that is going to make the Nanaimo–Victoria route quite sustainable for us,” he said.