A new bus service designed to replace the Greyhound route to Kelowna was set to hit the road this week.
Fritz Keller of Silver City Stage Lines was to make his first official run on the new Kootenay-to-Kelowna bus connector on Tuesday.
“People are booked for Tuesday, Wednesday and then the following day,” Keller told the Trail Times. “So that’s really encouraging. And we’ve had good responses about leaving early and arriving in Kelowna at noon.”
The company is familiar with the needs and demands of passengers, as Keller drove the inter-city Greyhound line from Trail to Castlegar for years.
Greyhound announced earlier this year it was ending all its routes in Western Canada, including its long-standing Kootenay-Okanagan route.
His passengers were mostly seniors and customer service was typically over the phone.
So Keller’s greatest hurdle in taking over the westbound connector from Greyhound was getting an online booking site up and running. A dedicated website was a requirement to get operator approval from the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board last month.
The Silver City Stage Lines website (www.FritzTravels.com) is now online and all seats must be reserved through it.
“The biggest struggle for us was to get our website out there,” Keller said. “There is a lot of support and people are really excited that we stepped up to do this, but right now they can’t find us. So hopefully by this week, when someone Googles ‘Bus to Kelowna’ from Trail or Nelson, it should pop up with links to our website. So that will be very helpful.”
And, whether the passenger is departing from Trail, Castlegar or Nelson, all seats cost $75 each way ($71.43 plus taxes).
The 14-passenger bus will leave Nelson at 6:30 a.m. and arrive back at 6:30 p.m.
The only day with no service is Saturday. Every other day the bus will arrive in Kelowna at Orchard Park Mall by noon and head back to the Kootenays at 1 p.m.
Passengers in Trail, Castlegar and Nelson will be picked up from A&W restaurants in those cities. Stops for gas and washroom breaks are scheduled at gas stations from Grand Forks to Rock Creek.
“The main reason I applied to do this was for my senior population,” Keller said. “But I would love to get more people who can see it’s actually pretty reasonable and they don’t have to drive on their own. We’ll be in Kelowna by noon, so they’ll have the whole afternoon for appointments or whatever else. Hopefully with the good [schedule] we can get more passengers on board.”