Fritz Keller (right) and Craig Hubner are the two main drivers on the Kootenay-to-Kelowna connector. (Submitted photo)

Filling the void; Success story for Kootenay-to-Kelowna bus service

Trail-based bus line took over the Kelowna run after Greyhound Canada put a stop to it

One year in and Silver City Stage Lines is running the Kootenay to Kelowna bus connector seven days week and averaging 16 passengers each day.

In the past 12 months since taking over the route after Greyhound Canada hit the brakes for good, owner Fritz Keller remains in it for the long haul.

“Time goes so fast,” he said. “Business has been a little bit better than I was hoping for, obviously there’s a little bit of room to improve, but we are happy for the first year.”

Previous: New Kootenay-to-Kelowna bus line ready to roll

Previous: ‘We’re in it for the long haul’

Besides upgrading to a more user-friendly booking site, at the behest of his customers, Keller added a Saturday run to the schedule three weeks ago.

“We had lots of inquiries, especially from Nelson and Castlegar Selkirk students, they would like to go to Kelowna on Saturdays … have fun, then come back with us on Sunday. And also a few seniors like the idea to go see family for the weekend,” he said.

“So it’s good, and there’s definitely been an awesome response.”

While Keller and a former Greyhound professional remain the two main drivers, to help keep operations running smoothly Monday to Sunday, he also added two more jobs to the roster and filled them with local hires.

Reliability is key to Keller’s service, so he runs a tight ship in terms of scheduling.

He takes pride in the fact that the stage line never strays – the bus leaves Nelson for Trail at 6:30 a.m., arrives at Orchard Park Mall by 12:15 p.m., then heads back to the Kootenays at 1 p.m.

Another new offering which went into play a month ago, is service to the Kelowna airport for a flat fee of $35. If there is no unexpected delay on route to the Okanagan, and the bus arrives by 12:20 p.m., then a lift to the airport is do-able.

“So far, we are always on time,” Keller said. “Every time we’ve had someone for the airport, we were able to take them, and they really appreciated that service.”

This winter season, however, he’s tweaking the afternoon route back into the Kootenay region.

Instead of risking foggy conditions on the Strawberry Pass and Rossland hill, from now until spring, the bus will be heading straight into Castlegar. Trail-bound passengers will be coached into town on an inter-city bus.

“The pass and then the Rossland hill are really hard on the buses,” Keller explained. “And up to 60 per cent of our ridership is out of Castlegar and Nelson, so they love the fact that they are more or less on a direct bus trip from Kelowna.”

More than anything, as a small business owner, Keller’s service is all about the person sitting in the seat.

“It’s been a pleasure doing this,” he shared. “The people are so nice, they are very thankful and grateful that somebody stepped up (after Greyhound Canada stopped the run).”

One of those passengers, Loraine Fabrick, called the Trail Times to ask that Keller be recognized for his company’s exemplary – and critically-needed service – on his one-year anniversary.

Fabrick lives in the Boundary. Once a month for the past five years, she’s had to catch a bus to Kelowna for a particular medical treatment.

Since Keller stepped in, her travels have always been on time, unlike the oft late-running Greyhound line.

And Silver City Stage Lines comes with the personal touch that only a small business service can offer- the same trustworthy and friendly face behind the wheel each trip.

“There was no glitch between when Greyhound stopped and when Fritz was there … he was set up to go right away, and I just really want him to be acknowledged,” Fabrick said.

“I am on there every four weeks, we’ve become close friends, and he goes above and beyond in so many ways,” she shared.

“And for one year in business, I think he has done just wonderful. I appreciate their service so much, and I think they need recognition.”



newsroom@trailtimes.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

MP Morrison touts non-partisan effort to provide relief amid COVID-19 pandemic

The federal government has announced a slew of economic initiatives for those impacted by the pandemic

Nelson and COVID-19: everything you need to know

Check this page for every local story related to the outbreak

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Interior Health to host virtual town hall Friday, March 27

The Q&A forum begins at 6 p.m. PDT, link in story

West Kootenay octogenarian helping develop low-cost ventilator for COVID-19 patients

Peter Brockley is working with his doctor son, Graham, to develop the unit that could save lives

Trudeau announces 75% wage subsidy for small businesses amid COVID-19

This is up from the previously announced 10 per cent wage subsidy

World update, 9:30 p.m. March 27: Positive news in Korea as U.S. hits 100,000 cases

The United States now has the most coronavirus cases of any country in the world

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

Kids get back to learning in B.C., online

Ministry of Education rolls out new tool for school

67 more B.C. COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Vancouver region

Positive tests found in Surrey, Langley long-term care facilities

‘Now is not the time to bag that peak’: BCSAR manager discourages risky outdoor adventures

Call volumes are not going down, even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists

Food Banks BC already seeing surge in demand due to COVID-19 pandemic

Executive director Laura Lansink said they expect applications will keep increasing

Nanaimo couple caught aboard cruise ship with four dead and COVID-19 present

Four ‘older guests’ have died on Holland America’s Zaandam; cruise line confirms two COVID-19 cases

Frontline workers receiving COVID-19 isolation exemptions prompt concerns

Provincial Health Authority staff exempt from self-isolation upon return from international travel

Most Read