Even though they’ve been operating in Thompson since the early fall, Maple Bus Lines finally held its official grand opening Nov. 24 inside their new depot at 27 Selkirk Avenue.
Deputy mayor Kathy Valentino presented Maple Bus Lines staff with a certificate of appreciation right before the ribbon-cutting ceremony took place, thanking them for setting up shop in Thompson after Greyhound decided to shutter all of their services in Western Canada as of Oct. 31.
“I am a person that believes that we are creatures of habit, and that we don’t like change,” she said. “But I want to acknowledge Maple Bus Lines for jumping on [that] change.”
Maple Bus Lines currently provides regular passenger services, freight shipping and charter trips from Thompson to Winnipeg with a variety of stops in between, including Wabowden, Grand Rapids and Ashern.
Maple Bus Lines has been providing charter services in Manitoba since 1986, says owner Lori Mann, and only recently adopted scheduled service and freight shipping to help fill the void left by Greyhound.
This process also included hiring former Greyhound staff like operations manager Lona Barnowich and a number of experienced drivers.
Mann also has her eye on taking over as Thompson’s transit system operator, since that position currently remains vacant. Maple Bus Lines has already jumped at the opportunity to provide temporary morning and afternoon bus services for students starting Nov. 26.
However, Mann said that one of the biggest obstacles standing in their way is name recognition, since they are going head-to-head with other new transportation companies – like Thompson Bus – that have emerged in the wake of Greyhound’s departure.
“It’s companies competing over a small piece of the pie,” she said. “But I’m hoping it shakes out again through [our] excellent customer service … once they travel with us they’re coming back.”
On a more personal level, Mann said it’s been extremely gratifying to see Maple Bus Lines’ expansion into Thompson come to fruition, since she grew up in the Hub of the North and regularly travelled along these charter routes to compete in athletic competitions for R.D. Parker Collegiate.
“I travelled on all those teams every weekend, volleyball, basketball, baseball, at R.D. Parker. It’s so important for those kids to travel,” she said. “I know that sounds really mushy and weird, but I truly believe it.”