Offering a sardine-free commute
By Gary Ahuja
"The drive makes me want to poke my eyes out."
Kristine Carrick blurted the words out with laughter as she sat down in the comfortable confines of Pacific Commuter on Thursday (June 28) morning.
Carrick was referring to commuting from the Fraser Valley to Vancouver. And her sentiments are very likely shared by thousands of others who shuttle back and forth across the Port Mann Bridge for work every day.
"In transit, you are squished in like a sardine," added Maryanne Lechleiter.
The pair were riding the bus as part of two media tours in advance of Pacific Commuter's July 3 launch.
While Carrick now works in Langley, a few years back, her job required the occasional trip to downtown Vancouver.
Had this been a reasonable option for her back then, she said she would have been all over the idea.
The idea is the brainchild of childhood friends Darius Kovacs and Chris Geoghegan.
"I was really tired thinking about how much time I was wasting on my morning commute," Geoghegan said.
"This is out of necessity."
Kovacs lives in Langley, while Geoghegan is a Cloverdale resident. Both are 30 years old and work in downtown Vancouver.
They came up with the idea a few months ago during one of their many commutes.
And the end result was Pacific Commuter, which they describe as a club, not a business.
They are not in this to specifically make money, the men say, but rather for their own benefit as well.
"It is like the hair club," Kovacs joked referring to the Hair Club for Men commercial.
Members — there are already close to 20 — pay a $5 annual fee, plus $395 per month for those who commit to a full year membership. The alternative is $495 for a monthly membership. They are offering a free one-week trial.
By comparison — using average gas prices and trip length, plus with money for parking — they came up with a monthly cost of driving of $485. And this does not include the cost of tolling for the new Port Mann Bridge.
That works out to a monthly savings of $90 per month and $1,080 per year.
Members receive a spot on the 42-person luxury bus, which has two pick-up spots — near the Langley Airport (21277 56 Ave.) and at Clayton Crossing (68 Avenue at Fraser Highway) — and three drop-off locations — the Sheraton Wall Centre, Waterfront Station and Coal Harbour.
A third pick-up location is in the works, depending on what suits club members.
The vehicle has reclining plush seats, tray tables, a kitchenette, bathroom, and WiFi connection.
"When you are a contractor, time is money," said Kovacs.
"The fact I can work on my way to work alone makes the cost of membership worth its weight in gold."
"I was really tired of thinking about how much time I was wasting on my morning commute," Geoghegan said.
"I realized this didn't exist and about how many people — not to mention the environment — could benefit from it.
"It is a much needed connection for residents of Langley and Surrey who make the long commute downtown every working day."
The pair, who came up with the idea a couple of months ago, estimate that their start-up costs have been about a combined $3,000.
After renting the bus — which means not having to do maintenance or provide fuel cuts down on costs — they set up a website and began planning the logistics.
"Our experience isn't running a bus company," Geoghegan said.
"We see our job as getting this group together and providing a good experience."
The free time on the bus should benefit the riders in a variety of ways.
For one, they can use the time to catch up on emails or just surf the web. And it should help them relax after a long day at work.
Another benefit is it will take vehicles off the road. Of the club members already signed up, Kovacs said they are not current transit users but are people who drive to work.
And if the demand is there, they are open to getting more buses and possibly expanding east to Abbotsford.
Visit pacificcommuter.com to learn more.
– Black Press