Another player is entering the field of companies offering passenger bus service in the Kootenays.
Mountain Transport Institute Ltd. of Castlegar is opening a charter bus division to fill a service gap left by the recent closing of Nelson’s Queen City Shuttle and Charters.
The owner of MTI says it will provide much-needed transportation services to local schools, churches and sports teams traveling throughout the region.
“We’ve received calls from time to time from people wanting to rent our busses or have us provide bussing service,” says Andy Roberts, the company owner. But because they were primarily a driving school, Roberts says he’d send inquiries over to existing companies.
“With the closing of Queen City, though, there’s a huge vacuum in the area,” he says. “So we were immediately approached by different people, and it’s a great fit for our business model, because we are in the transportation business, to get involved with the charter bus service.”
MTI currently operates one 50-passenger coach based in Castlegar and has been covering some of the charters previously booked through Queen City. Roberts says it’s going to be a big investment for his company, and they’re being careful how they plan their expansion.
“One of the things we’re working on now is piecing together how many coaches we’ll need, and how many smaller busses we need to service the area,” he says. “We don’t want to rush out and buy a whole bunch of equipment and have too much, but we also need enough.”
Roberts says the company wants to hear from customers or potential customers, so they can accurately gauge the need.
“The more feedback we get from the public on service they feel they need then we can address those,” he says. “The bottom line is, we have to turn a profit. We’re not the government, we can’t run something that’s not profitable or it won’t last long-term.”
Roberts says there’s value in keeping such a service within the region.
“We will be keeping local coach drivers employed as well as the technicians who service the equipment,” he says. “Keeping this business in the region will also benefit suppliers who provide parts and services required to keep the vehicles in top mechanical condition for safe operation.”
Roberts says the company sees itself serving the main cities in the area — Nelson, Castlegar, Trail, Rossland, Creston and Grand Forks. They can start meeting clients’ needs right away, he says, if people want to contact the company.
“We hope that residents of the Kootenays see value in what we have to offer and continue to spend their transportation dollars locally,” adds Roberts.
Roberts started Mountain Transport Institute Ltd. in 1998 as a professional driver training school.