British Columbia

New Uber-esque bus service coming to Bowen Island

A new style of transportation is coming to Bowen Island, as TransLink launches an on-demand bus service pilot for residents.

One local businessman says the pilot is forcing him to close his taxi service

Two buses on separate operating schedules will be available during the pilot and can be booked through the mobile app.

A new style of transportation is coming to Bowen Island, as TransLink launches an on-demand bus service pilot for residents.

Similar to ride-share services like Uber and Lyft, anyone with the mobile app TapRide can book one of the two on-demand buses — a sharp turn from the traditional, timetable-centric model of bus service.

TransLink is also in the process of developing an online and phone-in booking system.

"We're focusing on the future of trialling a new technology which can change how we move around the region," said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond.

The pilot begins July 15 and continues till Sept. 15.

The two on-demand buses will operate on different schedules:

  •  One bus will run weekdays from 4:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. with a set pick-up location at Snug Cove ferry terminal

  • A second weekend-only bus will run from 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. with a floating pick-up and drop-off location

The pilot is in addition to the regular bus service.

Bowen Island Mayor Gary Ander says servicing the island's transit needs has long been a challenge. He's hopeful the pilot project will offer convenient transportation options for the island's sparsely populated areas.

"We're very excited ... TransLink has chosen Bowen Island," he said.

"By having more public transport, we can allow folks to leave their cars at home."

He adds that tourists will now have increased access to remote areas on the island, leading to both social and economic benefits.

TransLink has developed a new mobile app called TapRide where residents can book the on-demand buses. There will also be an online and phone-in booking system.

'We just can't compete': taxi service

While the news of the on-demand service has been welcomed by many in the community, it's also sealed the fate of a local business.

Mike Shannon is the owner of Bowen Island Land and Sea Taxi [B.L.A.S.T]. Although the company has had its nautical fleet running since 2009, it only opened the land taxi service in 2016 — the only one of its kind on the island.

But due to the introduction of the new pilot, Shannon says he's being forced to close his land-based operations.

"We just can't compete when there's a bus doing the same thing that's subsidized," said Shannon.

Even though the new buses only run during certain hours, Shannon says the insurance for the vehicle is too high and the small revenue his company will earn from catering to the late-night crowd won't even cover wages.

Shannon fears that, with his business closed, people who have been drinking late at night won't have options to get home safely, "but we just can't run a business with working the odd evening and on on a Saturday," he said.

Shannon says he will officially close the land taxi within the next two weeks.

With files from Marc-Antoine Belanger

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