By Sophie Gray
Local Journalism Initiative
An environmentally conscious bus company is applying for permits and licences that will allow it to start servicing the Highway 97 corridor from Kelowna to Osoyoos.
Mountain Man Mike’s bus service currently runs routes servicing Vancouver, Kaslo and Calgary with stops at most communities along Highway 3. The service has a stop in Osoyoos, and is looking to use that stop as a connecting point to Kelowna.
“There’s no service right now on Highway 97 between Kelowna and Osoyoos,” said owner Michael Hathaway. “It’s a pretty big corridor, you look at a lot of the towns and its population density along them, and I feel it’s a needed service.”
Hathaway said the demand for his services has increased dramatically since the onset of the pandemic. Clientele are usually mostly seniors, but since COVID-19 has made air transportation difficult, he’s seen a shift towards transporting seasonal workers, business travellers and even teenagers from split custody families.
“It’s all over the map, really but I will say that our demographic has shifted,” said Hathaway. “We find we get a lot of people in the 15 to 19 range that are custody visitation, because there’s not a lot of air travel right now.”
The increased need, he said, also comes from the lack of bus service connecting Kelowna, the largest city in the province after Vancouver and Victoria with a population of over 150,000, to other major cities and towns in the area. There are other bus companies that operate routes between Kelowna and Vancouver, but all have shut down in the wake of COVID-19 and none offer service to the South Okanagan region.
Hathaway also hopes the new route will help him to expand his network of buses to better service the growing need since the departure of Greyhound bus services in 2018. He believes that this route from Osoyoos to Kelowna would offer tourists, those travelling for work and anyone else an environmentally and budget friendly alternative to air travel.
“I think bus service is going to be more desirable to people trying to save money, that can’t necessarily afford to run a car, can’t afford to travel through air,” he said. “That’s what we find quite a bit because if you’re going to air travel to some of the major destinations you’re looking at $600 to $700 tickets. We do about a $100 ticket.”
The new proposed route will make stops in all the major communities between Osoyoos and Kelowna, including Oliver, Kaleden, Penticton, Summerland, Peachland and West Kelowna.
The application for service will be submitted to the B.C. Board of Public Transportation on June 1.