While a new long-haul bus service will fill the gap between Kelowna, Kamloops and Vancouver when Greyhound leaves, many small communities in the southern Interior are still looking for their own solutions.
The Alberta-based Ebus will begin operating three major routes in B.C. on Nov. 1, the day after Greyhound pulls its service in the province.
But Greyhound already pulled the plug in parts of Southern B.C. earlier this year. In the Similkameen Valley, with a total population of about 10,000, there hasn’t been a long-haul bus since May 31.
"If you can have a ride into the Okanagan and connect... from Kelowna into the Lower Mainland, that is unfortunately the only option right now," Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer said.
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is planning to increase BC Transit service to Kelowna, but that change won’t come until 2019 and it still won’t make it easy to get from the Similkameen to the coast.
"This is good to hear there is principle service between the major centres. [But] we have to look after our rural communities," Princeton Mayor Frank Armitage said. "We have people that have to get to Vancouver monthly for medical reasons, adults and children, and it's just not sufficient service."
Armitage, Bauer and RDOS board chair Karla Kozakevich had a near-hour-long meeting at last month’s UBCM with Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena.
Bauer said they created a working group with the province and said they’d ideally like to create a shuttle bus service that connects to Lower Mainland transit through the Similkameen.
"What we're looking for is... going from perhaps Keremeos to Princeton to Hope, and twice a day return. And then hookup in Hope to another transit system that perhaps hooks up to Abbotsford and from there, Vancouver."
Armitage said Minister Trevena is expected to reconvene with the mayors of Keremeos and Princeton sometime after the municipal election.