A new Kootenay bus service featuring vehicles fueled by processed vegetable oil has been given the green light to operate.
Kaslo-based Mountain Man Mike’s was approved on May 9 to run two routes by the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board. The first is a weekly Kaslo-to-Vancouver route that will make 16 stops in communities including Nelson, Castlegar and Grand Forks.
Michael Hathaway, the company’s owner, said Thursday that he hopes to have his 22-seat bus running to Vancouver by the end of June. Demand for the service is already high, he said, but Hathaway plans to be cautious.
“We are still going to try to take it slow and see what the ridership is because I don’t want to bite off too much and then have too much equipment,” he said.
The second route approved is an eight-stop weekly route from Kaslo to the B.C.-Alberta border that includes Nelson, Salmo, Creston, Cranbrook and Fernie.
Hathaway said he’s negotiating with an Edmonton-based company to pick up passengers at the border and continue on to the Albertan capital, but if that fails he plans on running the service himself. He hopes to have that route open within two weeks of the Vancouver route operating.
Rates have not yet been set, but Hathaway said he expects the trip to Vancouver to cost approximately $100 plus tax, along with a service charge for oversized luggage.
The new inter-city bus routes come after the sudden closure of Nelson’s Queen City Shuttle and Charters on Monday. Hathaway said the news has changed his plans for Mountain Man Mike’s, and that he wants to have two or three buses running by the end of the year with at least one wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
“Initially we were just going to have one bus and see what the ridership was, but since Monday after Queen City dropped I’ve been getting phone calls from their clients…,” he said. “Originally we were only going to be a Greyhound replacement, but now we’re going to apply to take on the charter market as well.”
Hathaway’s application to the transportation board featured 25 letters of support including one from the office of Hope’s Mayor Peter Robb.
It was opposed by Trail-based Silver City Stagelines, which is owned by Fritz Keller and runs a Nelson-to-Kelowna route Sunday to Friday. Silver City is the only other company approved for an inter-city bus route in the West Kootenay after Greyhound closed all of its routes in B.C. last year.
The transportation board acknowledged in its ruling that Hathaway’s company may impact Silver City’s ridership but the need for service was the greater consideration.
“We find approving the application would promote sound economic conditions in the transportation industry in B.C.,” the board wrote in its decision.
Mountain Man Mike’s does not yet have a website. Hathaway said questions about rates, bookings and the company’s plans can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or posted on its Facebook page.