A grey and rainy October day didn’t deter the enthusiasm of almost 40 people from huddling under a Vancity tent to celebrate the launch of the new Bus Co-op in Langley.
Currently running two buses in the Langley region, this innovative co-op is designed to offer seniors organizations an inexpensive alternative to ferry the seniors they serve to events and destinations of interest in a safe and more cost-effective way than current modes of transport.
President Janice McTaggart, Outreach Coordinator at the Langley Senior Resources Society, says, “Buses are often sitting idle at supported housing but since these agencies have joined the co-op, we’re already at 75% capacity. It’s a ‘green’ initiative that makes much better use of these resources.”
Co-op Developer Marty Frost, who worked on the Co-op’s feasibility study and business plan, notes that Langley is a good fit for a seniors transportation co-op as it has one of the fastest growing seniors populations in the Lower Mainland.
In addition to the Langley Senior Resources Society, the Bus Co-op’s founders include the Langley Lodge (operated by the Langley Care Society) and Magnolia Gardens. Frost, who has provided co-op development support to over 100 groups in his 30+-year career with the sector, is impressed with the dedication and savvy of the founders:
“Working with this group was a real treat,” he says. “They have what any co-op developer looks for in a group they’re working with — a real commitment to the project’s outcomes.”
McTaggart is thrilled with the support that the Co-op has garnered, “Vancity has provided us with almost $157,000 in grants and loans,” she says. “This is fantastic as it allows us to launch and get the co-op going while we work on getting new members and acquiring new buses.”
Kate Dunford, Community Investment Manager with Vancity, says that the reason they supported the group is that they understood the need and had built strong relationships in the community, “We thought the bus idea was a solid one. The group worked with Marty [Frost] who then confirmed that it was financially viable.” Dunford was also pleased that the group “leaped onto the co-op idea.”
Operational support is being provided by Modo — the Car Co-op, who have provided their Engage booking software and fleet management services, and the STAR program of BEST (Better Environmentally Sound Transportation), who do the day-to-day operational and administrative work. Translink will shortly be donating the Co-op one of its decommissioned buses to round out the fleet.
McTaggart notes that, “We’re enormously lucky to have such fabulous partners. Not only is it good publicity for them, but the partnerships we’re developing are a benefit to the whole community.”