An Alberta-based bus company is standing pat as it celebrates one year of operation in B.C. — a market it entered following Greyhound shutting down operations in Western Canada.
Ebus has been operating three routes in the province between Kamloops and Vancouver, Kamloops and Kelowna and Kelowna and Vancouver, since the end of October 2018.
“We’re proud to say our numbers today are stronger than they were Oct. 31, 2018,” said Ebus operations supervisor Glen Desjardine.
He said Ebus hit “double digits” in passenger numbers on all departure ridership on its first day in operation.
“They were higher than we had expected,” he said.
While company representatives say the B.C. operation is profitable and ridership is higher than it was on day one, there are still empty seats on a daily basis.
Ebus did not wish to disclose numbers regarding ridership and financials.
John Stepovy, Ebus director of sales and business development said service levels have been as expected and the company sees room to grow in the B.C. market.
Stepovy said Ebus intends to ensure it can sustain the three routes it currently operates before expanding.
“Once we have a solid foundation then we can build upon that,” he said, adding he feels they have a sustainable model in B.C. and it’s just going to take time.
In its year of B.C. operations, Ebus has had a modest expansion.
From twice-daily trips to and from the Lower Mainland from Kamloops and Kelowna, Ebus added a third trip on Fridays and Sundays, as well as five more coaches, doubling its fleet to 10.
Staff levels in B.C. also increased to about 30 from 20 in the past year, Desjardine said.
Ebus also added Salmon Arm as a dedicated stop on its Kamloops to Kelowna route, which is where route expansion stops for now, Stepovy said.
The company’s application for a thrice-weekly bus route between Kamloops and Prince George was denied by the Passenger Transportation Board in September, and Stepovy said the company will take a few months to determine whether or not it will pursue the route again.
Asked if the company had considered adding a bus route between Kamloops and Alberta, Desjardine and Stepovy told KTW the problem with adding a trip out east is the competitive pricing with airlines and length of time road trips take compared to air travel.
“It’s not something that we’re not going to review, it’s just not something that we’re entertaining immediately at this point,” Desjardine said.
Stepovy said Ebus has been fielding requests for service from various communities.
“We are watching and listening,” Stepovy said.
He described the last 12 months as a whirlwind year, noting a year ago they were just hoping to have people on the buses and one year later they’re looking at growth.
Stepovy said although it is difficult to project, steady growth in year two is expected.
“I would hope that when we’re chatting Oct. 31, 2020, that maybe we’ve had a little bit more growth and expansion in the marketplace that we can celebrate,” Stepovy said.
In addition to dedicated stops in Vernon and Salmon Arm on its Kamloops to Kelowna route, Ebus also makes stops in Chase, Sorrento, Enderby and Armstrong if a ticket is booked.
With stops in Abbotsford and Surrey along the Kamloops to Vancouver route, Ebus also stops in Merritt, Hope and Chilliwack when booked.
Desjardine said Ebus has found a home at its Sahali Mall location, having recently renewed its lease, and has plans to renovate the space with new paint, flooring and a new reception area.
“It’s going to be lipstick and mascara,” Dejardine said.