I live on Gabriola, a gulf island the size of Manhattan with a population of @4000. When we first moved here I could walk from my house to the ferry, but in August 2004, we moved as far as you could get from the commercial centre and the ferry. That’s great when I’m not working, but during the week I commute which poses some logistical issues. My office is in Nanaimo but I’m required to have a car as I travel around the central region of Vancouver Island. For many years, I was able to leave my car in Nanaimo for free at the local mall. They got wise to the number of commuters doing the same thing and now require a parking pass.
I take my car on the ferry on Monday morning and bring it home on Thursday evening. The problem was how to travel the rest of the time. Seeing as I’m at the far end of the island there’s not a lot of traffic going by my place. I’ve managed to hitchhike and carpool but not having reliable transportation was stressful and I didn’t want to have my partner schlep me to the ferry (30 minute roundtrip).
Then in June 2013, a group of volunteers started up a bus service called GERTIE (Gabriola Environmentally Responsible Trans-Island Express). Two Mercedes Sprinters (and now bigger buses), running on bio-diesel, have several runs around the island each day. There are set schedules of where the buses will be along the route, but it’s a flag down service – meaning you figure out what time you should be out on the road and wave your hand. I just walk to the end of my driveway and I’m picked up and taken on the express run to the ferry. Same thing on the way home.
There were several people in my neighbourhood getting on around the same place so I was asked if they could build a bus shelter on my land. Who would object to their own personal bus shelter?! And look at this beauty: its all handmade post and beam. And some kind elf carved an Orca in the seat. I never saw them and still don’t know who did it.
For three years this group worked tirelessly all for free – yes, free – the committee who did the schedules, funding proposals, reports, meetings – and the drivers, many who did several shifts/week. Our fares are reasonable: $2.50/adult, $1.50 youth and less if you buy a monthly pass.
In February 2016, Gabriolans voted in a referendum to have the bus service paid for through our property taxes. Now our bus system is guaranteed and the drivers are paid. There are still lots of volunteers working behind the scenes though.
I take the bus six times a week. In the fall of 2017 GERTIE had a contest asking riders to send in photos of odd things they brought on the bus. That week I had taken in a group of rescue chickens: 1 rooster, 11 hens and 12 chicks.
I had no where to put another rooster so I asked my friends Thomas and Elizabeth in the if they could foster him while I tried to find him a home. I dropped him off on Sunday and his date with the butcher was Wednesday. I worked hard posting ads and found him a place on acreage. To sweeten the pot, I added a White Leghorn hen for free.
I brought Snowy on the bus and was joined by Elizabeth who brought the Easter Egger rooster. The ride was a lot of fun – we were filled to capacity and had two crates with chickens on our laps. We took some photos of our journey hopeful of winning. Unfortunately we lost out to folks who took two goats on GERTIE. I guess goats trump chickens.
Hey, isn’t that Tracy you ask? Yup, sure is. And if you don’t remember who she is check out the link about me rescuing her hatching eggs. She’s my afternoon driver Monday -Wednesday so we get the chance to catch up and talk chickens. It’s also my opportunity to help her out. I work close to a small grocery store that puts their unsellable produce out for free pick up daily. I usually swing by a few times a week and end up carrying a couple of bags of fruits & veggies home on the ferry. And I always make sure to get enough to pass on to Tracy for her birds.
P.S. All our buses have names. Guess what my bus is called? Cannabus. What did you expect for a gulf island?