A new bus service by Kaslo man Mike Hathaway could fill a hole left behind by Greyhound and reach new eco-friendly heights — so long as it’s approved by B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board.
Hathaway, who operated school buses for more than a decade, has been tinkering with processed vegetable oil as a fuel alternative for a few years now, he told Black Press in a phone interview.
“I switched my personal vehicles to vegetable oil about five years ago, mostly in trucks,” he said.
While diesel starts up a dual-system engine, the other 90 per cent of the trip relies on the oil.
Hathaway, who is also a Red Seal mechanic, is now looking to grow his eco-friendly tanks to replacing diesel tanks on charter-size buses.
Routes would connect commuters between Vancouver and Edmonton with stops through the Kootenays. Both routes would be based out of Kaslo.
“The idea is to allow eco-tourism to bring more people through the Highway 3 corridor, because the Greyhound dropping out has caused a pretty big rift for businesses,” he said. “They just don’t have the traffic flow of tourists.”
What would start as one trip per week, could grow into more buses as needed, Hathaway explained, and potentially opening a small processing plant for vegetable oil in Vancouver.
He’s sent his formal application to the Passenger Transportation Board, which oversees all commercial transportation services in the province. If approved, he could be up and running by summer.
|Mike Hathaway has been a commercial bus driver for almost 10 years, and has a background in mechanics. (Photo submitted)|
So far, Hathaway’s collected more than 7,000 litres in stored oil, all from nearby restaurants.
“That isn’t going to be enough to run the company for that long,” he said, adding that he hopes he’ll be able to gain more contracts — potentially along the bus routes — as word catches on of his service.
Hathaway said that, despite it being a surprise to many, the plan has been well-received by potential customers. To make his case to the board, he’s gathered roughly 50 letters of support from fellow community members in Kaslo and beyond.
But one company, Trail-based Silver City Stagelines, has posted a formal opposition to Hathaway’s application, as it runs in-part along a similar route.
In a statement, Silver City Stagelines owner Fritz Keller said he only opposes Hathaway’s proposed route points at Nelson, Castlegar, Grand Forks, Greenwood and Rock Creek, and that he has no qualms with the Alberta-bound route.
“Approving another inter-city bus line from Nelson to Rock Creek would greatly affect our ridership and create unsound economic conditions for our business,” said Keller, who started his own Nelson to Kelowna service last October.
“There is no public need for two lines from Nelson to Rock Creek.”
If Keller’s request sways the board, Hathaway said he’d be disallowed to pick up and drop off customers between Nelson and Rock Creek.
Hathaway has until April 8 to meet the application requirements for his submission, including any opposition from the public, before the Passenger Transportation Board makes their decision.