Harry Ahola was awarded by BC Transit after 29 years of service as a bus driver in Salmon Arm. (Ihana Images)

Dedicated driver: Salmon Arm BC Transit employee earns lifetime achievement award

Harry Ahola says the people on the bus make his job rewarding

A long and exemplary career behind the wheel of a transit bus has earned Salmon Arm’s Harry Ahola special recognition.

The veteran bus driver was awarded 2020 transit superstar honours and the Mike Docherty Lifetime Achievement Award by BC Transit.

“It was a real shock; it’s like winning the lottery,” Ahola said of the award from the provincial transit service.

According to Ahola’s award citation from BC Transit, he is known for cheering up the streets of Salmon Arm with his ready grin seen through the bus’s windows. He was also awarded for his exemplary driving record and his skills as a HandyDART driver which, according to BC Transit, are the benchmark for new drivers to aspire to.

Ahola was the first Shuswap transit operator to get behind the wheel. His career began in 1991 driving on the initial Shuswap transit routes which he said would sometimes only see seven passengers board his bus in a day. Ahola said those buses now pick up as many as 200 people per day, but he is behind the wheel of a HandyDART instead of the regularly scheduled buses.

Read More: Demand continues to drive Okanagan real estate markets

Read More: Calls to Okanagan crisis line increase for those over 40

HandyDART buses offer door-to-door service for passengers with special needs, a task Ahola said he has really enjoyed over the past 16 years behind the wheel of one.

“When they’re sad they cry, when they’re happy they laugh, we could all learn something from that,” Ahola said of passengers who he drives to support programs daily.

The driver also had kind words about his senior passengers who often share interesting information about Salmon Arm’s past.

Read More: B.C.’s to begin counting mail-in ballots Friday, will take at least 3 days

Read More: Sorrento Remembrance Day ceremony pared down in response to COVID-19

In his time behind the wheel of a HandyDART in the Shuswap, Ahola said he has seen increasing demand for the service. He said they are now running two 20-seat buses, compared to the single seven-seater he drove at first.

HandyDART drivers do more than just drive. Ahola said he assists passengers who use wheelchairs and most of his day is spent taking people directly to medical and other appointments rather than driving a set route.

Following years of daily interactions with the public, Ahola said it becomes obvious that not every passenger is friendly, and an important skill for bus drivers is keeping their own emotions in check when things get heated. He said in most cases the unfriendly passengers are just having a bad day, and it is important to keep that in mind.

Overall, Ahola said it is the people on the bus that make his job rewarding enough to stay at it for 29 years.



jim.elliot@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

BC Transit

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce will host the Valley Wide Business Expo May 4 at Predator Ridge Resort. (photo submitted)
Golf raffle helps Okanagan families score homes

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan swinging into action this summer with a new raffle

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control in Electoral Area D starting next year

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read