If you were planning a weekend getaway to Tofino during the off-season but don’t have a car, you may be out of luck.
Vancouver Island Connector’s Tofino Bus is putting their services on hiatus until May beginning this week.
The bus may only operate seasonally going forward as it hasn’t been profitable for its parent company since the pandemic affected travel on Vancouver Island.
John Wilson, President, and CEO of The Wilson’s Group of Companies which took over operations of Tofino bus pre-pandemic, in 2018, says they know people rely on their buses’ services and the company did not make the decision lightly.
“We are very concerned about the safety of the people who rely on our service. Sadly, we have no other options,” said Wilson.
With the Tofino Bus’ service ending until spring, Vancouver Island is losing its only inter-municipality bus. This bus provided much-needed transportation to 29 communities and 21 First Nations communities.
Wilson says that since the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership has been down by 95% on the inter-municipality routes and has yet to recover to regain a sustainable level of commuters.
“The passenger counts drop so drastically in the fall and winter months that the revenue made during our peak season just simply isn’t enough to sustain the service 12 months of the year,” said Wilson.
The company hasn’t had any funding to help the business survive the pandemic since March 2022 and received a one-time grant back in 2021 through the BC government.
Being that the Tofino Bus isn’t a part of public transit and relies on ticket sales to remain profitable, they decided it was best to go on hiatus rather than lose money in the off-season.
“We have tried our best to cut back on costs where we can,” said Wilson. “With our current passenger counts we are unable to cover the operational expenses for these runs and cannot continue to operate these routes at a loss through the winter months. Therefore, we have made the decision to move to a seasonal, May through October, service.”
The last day of operation for the Tofino bus and the Vancouver Island Connector will be Tuesday, January 3rd until it begins again in May.
Wilson said that any passengers who have previously purchased tickets for a trip during this time will be contacted and issued a refund.