The mayor of Tofino, B.C., says he is relieved to hear a Vancouver Island company has stepped in to offer transportation to and from Nanaimo.
IslandLink says it will operate a van service between Nanaimo and Tofino three times a week. Service will start on Jan. 30.
Earlier this month, Wilson's Transportation suspended its Island Connector and Tofino bus service until May citing a drop in ridership in the period after the holidays and before the summer.
The new route will run in both directions between the Departure Bay ferry terminal in Nanaimo and Tofino, serving points that include Port Alberni and Ucluelet. The company says it plans to operate year-round and start offering daily service as of May 18.
IslandLink owner Phillip Morgan says the route will be serviced by vans that carry up to 15 passengers, a more cost-effective option than the previous bus service.
"In our opinion, the highway coaches are just not needed," he said. "The small communities on the island just don't generate that type of passenger demand for the vast majority of the year. They're just not needed."
Calling the announcement "exciting and promising," Tofino Mayor Dan Law says he is glad residents now have a new transportation option.
"For a smaller bus to come and fill the gap, it seems like a totally reasonable, innovative solution," he said, adding it will give other levels of government more time to figure out a long-term transportation solution for the region.
Marcie DeWitt with the Alberni Clayoquot Health Network says she is relieved, especially for seniors and vulnerable people without vehicles, although she'd like to see a more affordable price tag. IslandLink will charge $65 for a one-way ticket to Nanaimo.
"I think at this point, having any service in place will be a big relief to many community members," DeWitt said.