As of Monday, Wilson’s Transportation of Saanich is operating the BC Ferries Connector, a new name for the long-running coach line bus service that connects downtown Victoria to downtown Vancouver via BC Ferries’ Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route.
Wilson’s won the contract in the fall of 2015, and has since added six buses to cover the winter schedule, according to Wilson’s general manager Joe Jansen.
The Connector is starting with a core service of three sailings per day, each way, until April 30. At that time Wilson’s will up the service for the busier May to September season as needed. The BC Ferries Connector is based out of the same 700 Douglas St. office previously occupied by the Pacific Coach Lines’ CoastWater service it’s replacing.
It’s good news for the employees of Wilson’s, as it brings much-needed winter work to the seasonally based tourism demands.
“This provides more stability for our drivers, as people are aware the summer season is peak season,” Jansen said. “We actually have a core of drivers who like driving just in the summer, and head south for winter, but some are here year round, and this provides work for them.”
The additional contract with B.C. Ferries means more buses for the Wilson’s yard on Glanford Avenue, with a couple of buses parked on the Vancouver side. The Glanford office and yard is home to almost 100 drivers based out of there and about 130 buses of various types. Wilson’s also runs highway coaches, school buses, mini-coaches and the vintage English-style double-deckers downtown.
“We do have a large pool of drivers but we will end up with more, as we already hired a couple new drivers in Vancouver to handle that side,” Jansen said. “Beyond that we’ll hire as the frequency increases over the summer.”
It’s the second expansion for Wilson’s by way of local contracts in two years as Wilson’s recently took over the YYJ Airporter shuttle service, which created 15 new jobs.
It’s an interesting year for Victoria to Vancouver tourism as two new foot-passenger services have been announced which will run harbour to harbour from Victoria to Vancouver. After decades without a foot passenger ferry service, Australian company Riverside Marine and the Clipper will now compete.
“We were aware of the Australian proposition, which was originally portrayed as a higher-end tourism product, verses a regular commuter-style service with frequency,” Jansen said.
Jansen added it will likely be a higher price point for Riverside Marine and the Clipper as they will be primarily focused on tourist dollars. He doesn’t expect long-term effects to the BC Ferries Connector.
“We think the frequency BC Ferries offers in conjunction with ours, from downtown to downtown, is a service people will be interested in, we’ll make whatever improvements we can,” Jansen said.
The price of a one-way trip on the Connector from the Victoria terminal at 700 Douglas St. to Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station is $63.90 with tax and the BC Ferries pass included, or $127.80 round trip, though prices vary depending on usage.
Visit Wilson’s new bcfconnector.com website for service times.