Going green is an easy alternative for residents and visitors on the West Coast of Vancouver Island thanks to an entrepreneur named, fittingly, Dylan Green.
The young entrepreneur launched a local and inter-city transit service that won a national Young Leaders in Rural Canada award. Green says better bus service was “desperately needed” in Ucluelet and Tofino when he launched his company, Tofino Bus, in 2002. One problem with existing carriers became glaringly obvious to Green, an avid surfer.
“Not allowing people to carry surf boards on buses was crazy,” Green says. “Tofino is the surf capital of Canada!”
So Green dreamed up an alternative. He began with one van and one driver, taking passengers from the West Coast to Vancouver and Victoria. In the beginning, he says, the passengers were strictly backpackers, but not for long.
“I had no idea how huge the demand would be,” he says. “We just couldn't keep up. From day one, we haven't been able to keep pace with the amount of passengers.”
He soon increased service, bought bigger buses and added a local commuter service—the “Beach Bus”—between Tofino and Ucluelet which stops at many points of interest in Pacific Rim National Park. Tofino Bus carries more than 17,000 passengers each year.
Operating in a park also heightened his concern for the environment. “Tofino is next to a national park and is in a UNESCO Biosphere reserve. I wanted to participate in environmental stewardship by looking at alternative energy,” he says. He began investigating biodiesel and was surprised that vehicles could run on vegetable oil and recycled grease.
He did a test-run with 100-percent biodiesel, known as B100, for a week. “The bus ran fine,” he says. He operated his buses on a blended, 20-percent biodiesel (B20) formula imported from Oregon for a while but has stopped because supply problems. A feasibility study showed him that he needed to produce biodiesel on a regional scale, a whole new enterprise that was too overwhelming for him at the time. Tofino Bus also participated in Ecotrust Canada’s first Climate Smart Workgroup, which helps small business measure, reduce and offset their carbon footprints.
“My dream is to one day use local recycled restaurant grease and fish oil to create biodiesel for our buses,” he says.
Green's enterprise had an unlikely beginning. He grew up in Vancouver, went to university in Victoria and worked one summer in Tofino studying the marbled murrelet for the Canadian Wildlife Service.
“My father and uncle were entrepreneurs,” he says. “I always saw myself in small business. There were a lot of young entrepreneurs in Tofino and I got excited about the opportunities. I looked into guiding, tours and transportation.”
He applied for a scheduled bus licence from the government regulator, but soon realized it was the wrong licence for a sightseeing operator. He hadn't planned to get into scheduled passenger service, but decided to go ahead with the licence anyway. A bit of research soon made him realize that he'd stumbled into a promising venture. And Tofino Bus was born.
His fleet has now grown into four vans, four mini-buses, three shuttle buses and nine school buses. The latter he acquired for a contract that he won in 2005 to transport students to school in Ucluelet. During the busy summer season he has up to 18 employees.
Tofino Bus has also taken over the Tofino-to-Nanaimo route from Greyhound, and also manages the bus depot in Port Alberni. Ecotrust Canada Capital provided a follow-up loan for some of the capital needed to aquire the route.
He says he needs to “slow down,” but all indications are that Green is on the go.