71-year-old Nelda spent Christmas day with her family in Powell River and after a rough ferry trip back to Comox on the 26th, then a cab ride to Courtenay she was scheduled to catch a bus back home to Ladysmith.
She was at the bus stop at Fitzgerald Avenue and 27th Street at 3:00 pm in time for the 3:15 bus, however, three hours would go by without any sign of the Vancouver Island Connector.
“She started texting me around 4 saying the bus wasn’t there yet and it was raining and it was getting uncomfortable,” her daughter Jessica Oman told CHEK News.
Nelda says six other people waiting for the bus huddled in alcoves of a building across the street instead of going into the nearby Driftwood Mall because no one wanted to miss the bus if it did come.
The bus stop is a BC Transit bus stop and there is no shelter against the elements.
“Because of the gusts of the wind, it actually broke all the metal rods of my umbrella so I was holding a broken umbrella over my head while trying to protect the lower part of my body with the suitcase, but after a while, it was just too much,” said Nelda.
She eventually did go into the mall around 4:30 as her daughter who was in Powell River tried to get answers from the bus company. She went back out at 5:00 after being told the first bus had broken down but a second bus was on its way.
By 6 pm she gave up and her daughter paid $250 for a cab to take her to Ladysmith.
Jessica Oman says when she tried to phone the customer service line at 6 pm it had closed for the night.
“No one was able to get any information on where the bus was,” she said.
John Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Transportation which runs the Vancouver Island Connector says he’s sorry for what the passengers went through.
“We do everything we can to make sure our schedules are on time and from our company’s point of view, we are definitely apologetic to our customers that were affected and will do everything in our power to make sure they are looked after,” Wilson said.
Ironically the former Greyhound and Tofino Bus station where customers used to wait inside, is within sight of the current BC Transit bus stop used by VI Connector.
Greyhound stopped servicing Vancouver Island in October 2018.
“We’ve been working with Courtenay to find a better location and a place with a shelter but those conversations are still underway,” added Wilson.
One man who got off the bus in Courtenay Sunday said all in all the bus service is very good and usually runs on time, however, he thinks the bus stop needs to be moved.
“This bus stop where they pick us up is just terrible,” said Chris Murphy. “There’s no parking lane for the bus to pull in and there’s no cover for the rain. It’s just ridiculous.”
Jessica Oman says a communication breakdown occurred.
“This day and age there should be a way for the bus company to contact waiting passengers by text to let them know how late the bus will be so they don’t have to wait outside,” she said.
John Wilson says the company will be contacting the affected Boxing Day customers directly.