Three years into operating an inter-city bus service between Prince George, Williams Lake, Kamloops and Surrey to fill the void after Greyhound pulled out, Janna Gertzen of Adventure Charters said the company has had its challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires and flood-damaged highways.
“It’s been challenge without a doubt,” said Gertzen who co-owns the business with her father Randy Gertzen. “It’s hit and miss and hard to plan when you don’t know what’s coming.”
Presently the company is licensed to operate from Prince George to Surrey and offers a variety of round trips, such as Prince George to Kamloops and Prince George to Surrey with stops at several communities along the route.
Buses continued to run through the pandemic.
“We are bound by minimum service requirements by our passenger transport license. When COVID hit they did suspend it, but the Ministry of Transportation called and said, ‘you know what, we really need you to keep running. You are an essential service and people need to be able to move from small communities for medical and other connections that aren’t as essential if you are based out of Kamloops or Prince George.”
Buses run Monday, Thursday and Friday depending on the route.
Gertzen said they started based on ridership and would increase routes as needed.
“It’s pretty tough to offer more days when you are sending a bus, for example today to Kamloops, with three passengers.”
Gertzen said she doesn’t think there would be enough business for a second bus service in the region.
“We do believe that service should be connected and it should be easier for passengers. … It is definitely more complicated now to travel by bus.”
The Gertzens recognized that difficulty and are part of a larger connection of operators.
For example, riders on Adventure Charters needing to travel to Kelowna can connect on a Kamloops Ebus.
“It’s an easy transition. Our schedules are linked. The bus leaves half an hour later.”
Going north is more difficult, she added.
“There is a government-funded BC Bus North that travels from Prince George but they don’t worry about connecting with anybody. With the private companies it’s a little bit easier.”
Ebus BC operations manager Glen Desjardine said the company considers Adventure Charters one of its partners.
“We saw the biggest void in inter-city bus service when Greyhound vacated western Canada was not so much who was going to start routes, it was about the customer and how they were going to find operated routes.”
As a result, the company launched Ebus Connector to form smaller partnerships. They facilitate the ability for smaller providers to either sell tickets and connect with Ebus or completely host similar smaller type carriers.
“It truly allows the consumer to look up one operator and decide how they are going to plan their trip, who they are going to connect with and make that journey as seamless as possible.”
Since launching in B.C. on Oct. 31, the company has been very happy with its success.
Twenty-twenty-one had its challenges due to COVID, wildfires and flooding, yet Desjardine added “thankfully” road crews were able to put critical road infrastructure back together in a relatively short period of time.
Desjardine helped launch Ebus in B.C. and has been working in the transportation industry for almost 30 years.
Even though Adventure Charters has offered the inter-city service for three years, Gertzen said every day they hear from someone who did not know the service exists, especially outside of Williams Lake.
BC Transit also runs a Health Connections Bus from Williams Lake to Kamloops return on Mondays. It is funded by Interior Health Authority, the city of Williams Lake and BC Transit. The fare is $5, which Gertzen said they cannot compete with.