The Santa Bus is out of service this year.
For the last 34 years, a bus with a large reindeer nose and antlers has carried Santa, Mrs. Claus and elves, offering free rides and candy cane on a variety of routes and participating in the Santa Claus and Lighted Truck parades.
But this year, no bus is available, B.C. Transit said.
“It was tough for us, as we know what the Santa Bus means to employees and public alike, but we had to make some difficult decisions this year,” said Jamie Weiss, B.C. Transit spokesperson.
“We have a rigorous preventative maintenance program and we are short of mechanics to service the fleet this year. With their increased workload, we could not find the time and resources to allocate to decorating the bus.”
With buses sidelined for regular maintenance, creating the Santa Bus would also have required taking one out of regular service — potentially affecting service, he said.
“We do know the Santa Bus gives customers and employees a lot of joy, and we hope to offer it again in 2024,” said Weiss.
One holiday tradition that is going ahead on Saturday, however, is the annual Stuff the Bus event in Victoria and Port Alberni.
“We knew we had to make it happen because we knew that the need is great — especially this year,” he said.
The event had a one-year hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic, making this year the 22nd time the event has been held in the last 23 years.
Last year it collected about 5,000 pounds of food, $900 in cash donations, clothing and many new toys. On average, the annual event collects about $13,500 in items and donations.
In Saanich, a double-decker will be set up in front of Save-on-Foods at Tillicum mall, at 3170 Tillicum Rd., with volunteers collecting non-perishable food items, new toys and clothing. Donations will go to the Mustard Seed Food Bank and the Salvation Army.
The bus will be at the mall from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
In Port Alberni, a B.C. Transit bus will be parked outside Walmart at 3355 Johnston Rd. from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday with volunteers collecting donations for the Salvation Army.