West Kootenay buses missed more than 200 hours of service in October, leaving many commuters in rural areas stranded and building on the already growing irritation with service disruptions in the area.
"For us it's kind of frustrating," said Salmo village Coun. Todd Wallace at the inaugural meeting for the RDCK in Nelson, where he is an alternate director for the Salmo area. "I was thinking of catching the bus here today, but I couldn't do it."
He is one of many who has felt the effects of the labour shortage, which has left NextGen Transit, which operates the West Kootenay routes, scrambling to hire four new operators as well as substitutes. Despite help from the RDCK, the recruitment has been slow.
Jesse Weiss, spokesperson for BC Transit, told KCR News that the entire transit sector has felt the effects of labour shortages, and that there was a drop in staff over the pandemic, as well as some who chose to work through it but recently have retired.
"And we do appreciate the work our transit operators have done across the province throughout the pandemic. It wasn't easy, they kept people moving, but we do understand there was a burden there."
BC Transit said the goal is to not have any one route disproportionately impacted, and that the operating company is trying to strike a balance.
"One of the challenging things here is that we are also encouraging employees to stay home if they are not feeling well. We are in cold in flu season, and it is for the safety of our drivers and our customers that they stay home if they are not feeling well."
Weiss said for November, the amount of cancelled hours is trending "much lower" so far than the previous month.
Hear a radio story on the transit challenges in the West Kootenays below: