Canadian nonprofit Parkbus launches express bus service from downtown Vancouver to B.C. provincial parks

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      Vancouverites without vehicles will have a new way to reach some of the province’s most visited destinations starting this Saturday (June 17), when nonprofit transportation service Parkbus arrives in B.C.

      Founded in 2010, the startup operates express bus rides to and from various outdoor sites, so that city dwellers—especially the environmentally minded and those who do not own cars—have an opportunity to access far-off hiking trails, campgrounds, and other recreational spots.

      Torontonian Alex Berlyand tells the Straight that he and a few friends came up with the concept when they found themselves consistently relying on friends, family, and hitchhiking to get to Ontario’s provincial parks. The startup now offers service in Toronto, Halifax, Montreal, and Ottawa.

      “At some point, we started talking about the idea that we’re probably not the only ones who want to access these destinations but don’t have a vehicle,” he says by phone.

      Parkbus will take off in B.C. with bus service to Shannon Falls, Stawamus Chief, Alice Lake, Garibaldi, Joffre Lakes, Cypress, and Golden Ears Provincial Parks. The launch comes after a successful pilot run in B.C. last year.

      Trips to each attraction take place on select dates throughout the summer, with the majority of rides happening on weekends. All service departs at Burrard Station (635 Burrard Street). Passengers may select one-way or round-trip service. They may also arrive and return on different dates, giving them the chance to stay overnight or camp out at the sites. Each bus carries 46 people.

      For Berlyand, this option is key to helping keep traffic to a minimum at B.C.’s parks. “The parks get very congested in the summer and parking is a real issue,” he says. “So, in the long run, this [Parkbus] will be a lot more sustainable than driving or renting a car.”

      Round-trip prices start at $22 for adults, $20 for students and seniors, and $11 for children 12-years-old and under. One-way prices start at $16, $14, and $8, respectively. Trips are between 45 minutes and three hours. The charges depend on the distance of the destination from downtown Vancouver.

      In addition to offering Vancouverites a safe, affordable, and convenient ride to B.C. attractions, Parkbus also makes an effort to teach its users—many of whom may be visiting a provincial park for the first time—about responsible outdoor recreation. “We’re working closely with the park organizations to educate people about expected practices, like leaving no trace,” he says. “That’s something that’s very important thing for us to emphasize.”

      In B.C., Parkbus operates under Vancouver-based nonprofit Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (BEST) with support from MEC. As a nonprofit, the startup contributes its ticket fees to the costs of running its buses and improving access to additional parks and sites.

      Bookings for Parkbus service to Shannon Falls, Stawamus Chief, Garibaldi, Joffre Lakes, Cypress, and Golden Ears Provincial Parks for dates in June, July, and August are now open online. (Some dates and times have already sold out.)

      Berlyand hopes to continue service into the fall and winter, with more B.C. destinations to be added at a later date.

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.