When Squamish’s Yoko Matsuyama, a mechanical engineer, has to work in Vancouver, she boards the Squamish Connector shuttle bus just before 7 a.m. at the Squamish Adventure Centre and pulls out a book or her laptop and settles in for the ride.
“The Connector is perfect,” she said. “I just be there and I don’t have to coordinate anything.”
The Squamish Connector was recently nominated for the Small Business B.C. Award in the category of best community impact.
Matsuyama has been using the service off and on for two years.
“It is good that you don’t have to bring your car to the city, then you’d need a parking spot and other costs would accumulate,” she said.
Mostly professionals like her use the service, according to Matsuyama.
In spring of 2014, the shuttle had a dedicated eight riders, but these days the upgraded 24-seat bus is often near full on the way to and from downtown Vancouver, she said.
Matsuyama doesn’t have to wait long for the 5:30 p.m. return shuttle because she works up until just before it leaves. Some of the other riders have a waiting period between the end of the workday and the trip home.
“I know one person who got a gym membership,” she said, adding the woman works out after work to fill the time.
Matsuyama said the $25 round-trip fare is reasonable, but a price reduction as the service becomes more popular would make it even more worthwhile, and more trips per day would make the service more attractive to other Squamish commuters.
“I know a couple and the partner, who has kids, all he wants is to go back home as soon as possible so that he can spend time with his family, which is totally understandable,” she said. “In that case it won’t work out because every day [waiting for the shuttle] adds hours.”
Eduardo Torres, owner of Squamish Connector Transportation Services Ltd., wants to expand to offer more stops to meet customer needs, but he said he faces opposition from the larger transportation companies at every turn. “Everyone is trying to stop me,” he said.
The Squamish Connector applied for an intercity bus license, which would allow more stops within Squamish, Britannia Beach and Vancouver. He said his application was opposed by two other bus lines, even though they don’t provide the same service. His application is currently under review with the Passenger Transportation Board.
The next step for the company, ideally by next winter, will be to have a second bus to cover the commuters from Squamish to Whistler, Torres said.
As much as Matsuyama enjoys riding the Connector, ultimately, she said, she doesn’t understand why there isn’t regional public transit.
“If there was public transportation, that would be a huge plus for Squamish, for sure.”