Lack of bus service leaving residents stranded

Ministry’s Health Connections solution visits Salmon Arm just twice per week, once west, once south

No man – or town – is an island, but it appears Salmon Arm is becoming just that in terms of bus transportation.

While Rider Express out of Saskatchewan has been operating its bus service from Vancouver to Calgary and back just once a week – Friday heading west, Saturday heading east, instead of one daily trip each way, it is currently applying to the Passenger Transportation Board to make that reduction formal.

Service between Kamloops and Vancouver is provided daily, as the Calgary to Vancouver route was intended to be.

Rider Express is proposing three new routes, but none go through Salmon Arm.

Read more: Bus company applies to drop Chase, Sorrento stops

In November last year, B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure put out an RFEI, request for expressions of interest, to provide bus transportation for “eight unfilled route segments.” Those eight segments included only one for Highway 1: Cache Creek to Kamloops; and two for Highway 5: Kamloops to Valemount and, including Highway 16, Valemount to the B.C.-Alberta border. No routes were included for Highway 97B. None of those routes go through Salmon Arm.

In an email to the Observer, the ministry wrote that it continues to work hard to fill the gap left by Greyhound’s withdrawal.

“We continue to work closely with other provinces and the federal government as part of an interprovincial working group to address the impact of discontinued intercity bus services and develop solutions.”

Read more: Promised daily bus schedule shrinks to one day a week

It states that the eight routes were selected for the RFEI because: “these are routes that are not serviced by any other provider – transit, health bus or community bus service. Interior Health Connections provides Interior communities with accessible transportation options to non-emergency medical appointments. Although medical appointments have priority on the Interior Health Connections, everyone is eligible to use this service if space is available. It is important that we focus our immediate efforts on finding coverage for routes that currently have no access to other transportation services.”

Read more: No plans yet for free WiFi on BC Transit buses

In checking with BC Transit’s Health Connections, it appears options are extremely limited in terms of getting transportation out of Salmon Arm.

Writes spokesperson Jonathon Dyck: “For customers who want to travel from Salmon Arm to Vernon, the Route 11 operates on Wednesdays only and you can connect to the Route 60 (operates Monday to Saturday) in Enderby to travel to Vernon. Onward travel to Kelowna would be on the 90 Okanagan Connector to UBCO.

Read more: Okanagan cities to celebrate BC Transit Driver Appreciation Day

“Health Connections service runs from Revelstoke to Kelowna (via Sicamous, Enderby and Vernon but not Salmon Arm) on Wednesdays only. Health Connections service operates between Revelstoke and Kamloops (via Salmon Arm).”

However, the Health Connections service from Revelstoke to Kamloops, stopping in Sicamous, Salmon Arm, Sorrento and Chase, runs on Tuesdays only, according to BC Transit’s online schedule.

The other alternative available heading south, but not from Salmon Arm, is the Ebus. It travels from Vancouver to Kamloops and return daily, with stops in Kelowna and Vernon; from Vancouver to Kelowna and return daily; and from Kamloops to Kelowna, with stops in Vernon, and return daily.

Read more: Bus company vies to replace Greyhound in Kamloops to Vancouver, Kelowna

To sum up, other than the Friday or Saturday Rider Express stop in Salmon Arm on its way to or from Vancouver, the only other bus stopping in Salmon Arm appears to be the Health Connections bus on Tuesday to Kamloops, or on Wednesday to Enderby with connections to Vernon.

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo, who questioned Transportation Minister Claire Trevena in the legislature on the issue, said “it seems like the minister has been a little asleep at the switch” and isn’t familiar with how the Passenger Transportation Board is issuing, monitoring and coordinating licences. He notes that Rider Express has not been meeting its initial schedule and there has been no public notification of or input into the reduction in service.

Now, he points out, if you wish to go to Vancouver via Rider Express, you need to stay for eight days if you don’t want to return the next day.

The ministry of transportation has not commented further, other than to state: “The RFEI closed on January 15 and the ministry is reviewing the expressions of interest received, and will then determine next steps.”

However, the RFEI’s eight routes do not include Salmon Arm.


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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