Young entrepreneur looking to fuel support for cheap bus service 

Petitions circling to bring the Snowbus back

The owner of a discount bus service, which was forced to shut down after four months of operating without a license, was in Whistler last week trying to drum up support for the Snowbus.

Joktan Elbert was handing out petitions and pressing the flesh to get locals excited and supportive of his idea for a cheap alternate bus service between Whistler and Vancouver.

"There’s got to be choices available and the public should decide whether it’s good or bad," said Elbert, the 25-year-old Vancouver native and the driving force behind the Snowbus.

Still, there is one thing standing in Elbert’s way.

He must have a license from the Motor Carrier Commission to operate a scheduled service.

The wheels of the Snowbus stopped turning in March when Greyhound Canada complained to the MCC that the discount bus service was operating illegally.

For $25 the Snowbus was regularly taking people from Vancouver to Whistler last season on a luxury bus with movies, refreshments and discount deals on rentals, tickets and Whistler restaurants, among other things.

According to the Motor Carrier Act, companies are not allowed to provide regularly scheduled bus services where they charge individual fares, unless they have an operating license.

By the end of March, the short-lived service was suspended.

Since then Elbert has been working towards getting a license.

Various city councils have supported the Snowbus, including Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Richmond and Whistler, he said.

In the next two weeks, he will have a detailed business plan with financial statements and financial projections for the next 24 months finalized for the MCC.

Also attached to his proposal will be the couple of hundred of statements of support he has collected in communities.

Those statements, including the more than 2,000 members of the Snowclub – the organization which Snowbus riders must belong to for a $5 fee in order to ride the bus – show that there is a need for the service in the community, he said.

"It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever had the opportunity to do in my life," said Elbert.

"It’s also the most difficult thing, but I love to have fun and this could be so much fun."

Elbert admits tackling a huge corporation like Greyhound can also be very tiring.

In a previous interview with Pique Newsmagazine , the general manager for Greyhound B.C. said the company would oppose Elbert’s application for a license.

"We certainly will... because it’s our competition," said David Mell.

"We are looking to protect our route and our revenues."

Elbert calls Greyhound "a monopoly" on the Sea to Sky highway and said their service at $42 round-trip is simply not affordable to many people.

The MCC has not given out a new license in the past 20 years.

It takes about 60 days for a license to be approved or rejected by the MCC but if the application is very complex or there are many objectors, it can go even longer.

Elbert is hopeful the Snowbus will be back again for next winter season at $29 round trip.

He is asking people to sign his petition as a show of support at www.snowclub.ca or call 1-866-SNOWBUS.

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