News » Whistler

Approval of bus licence puts Snowbus back on the road

by

comment

Young Vancouver entrepreneur will start the regularly scheduled bus next winter season

Joktan Elbert couldn’t have asked for a better present for his 27 th birthday this year.

Days after his big day at the end of February, the young entrepreneur from Vancouver got a phone call from the Motor Carrier Commission telling him he had a licence to operate the Snowbus – a regularly scheduled bus service from Vancouver to Whistler.

He had been waiting for that phone call for more than two years.

"After two years it just seems like it’s always going to stay a dream," said Elbert, who was still elated about the news days after it was announced. "My favourite part right now is just the ability to actually think up new ideas and dream about cool things to do and actually believe that now I can do them."

Greyhound has opposed granting Snowbus the licence throughout the lengthy MCC process.

Dave Hickie, general manager, western Canada Greyhound, said they were "obviously disappointed" with the MCC’s decision.

"It will effect our ridership," he said last week.

Elbert’s Snowbus dream began back in December 2001 when he started a discounted bus service from the city to the resort for $25 round trip. The bus was designed to take city skiers to Whistler in the morning and take them home in the evening.

Whistler residents could also ride the bus to and from the city.

This service had a twist – it was cheaper than the two bus services on the road, Greyhound and Perimeter.

But Elbert didn’t know that under provincial law he needed a licence to operate a regularly scheduled bus service.

"I guess for me in the beginning it was pretty simple," he recalled.

"I just wanted to ride a bus back and forth but I guess it’s a bit more complicated than that when you deal with... regulations and licensing and applications and competitors."

By March his service was shut down.

And for the past two years he has been appealing that decision despite strong opposition from both Greyhound and Perimeter.

His first application to the MCC failed in January 2003, but that didn’t stop him.

The second application was three times the size of the original, loaded with information and proof that the Snowbus could provide a safe and efficient service.

It took six months to prepare and a lot more financial commitment.

"I guess it’s par for the course," said Elbert.

"It is big business and in order to get there you really have to go through all of these hoops."

Now the Snowbus will offer roundtrip fares for $29, compared to Greyhound’s $43 roundtrip ticket.

The price has gone up $4 over the past two years in part to offset the financial investment to get the Snowbus up and running.

"I don’t think it’s an unfair amount either," said Elbert.

"I think it’s still pretty competitive with a) the car and b) with Greyhound."

In addition the Snowbus also offers movies along the way and Elbert is hoping to hook up deals with Whistler-Blackcomb and local restaurants for Snowclub members. A membership costs $9.

"Anybody can ride it but if you’re an old fuddy-duddy then you’re not going to want to ride," said Elbert.

"If you’re not cool with a little noise and a little fun, go ride the Greyhound."

Hickie said Greyhound’s opposition to its newest competition isn’t over yet.

"We’re looking at our options right now," he said.

"If there are any options available to us, we’ll be checking (them) out."

After two years against the odds, Elbert is ready for whatever may come his way in the future.

He said: "I’m learning what it’s like to be a small business in a big business world."

For more information about the Snowbus check out www.snowbus.ca

Add a comment