Sobering changes in store for party bus operators

VICTORIA – There will soon be stricter oversight to the “party bus” services popular among young people attending graduation parties and night clubs.

Provincial Transportation Minister Todd Stone announced Thursday (Feb. 26) that an overhaul of limousine licensing will require companies providing these services to go through an inspection and display a special plate alerting police of their designation.

“This is a positive change that significantly increases safety in British Columbia’s limousine industry by making operators more accountable and by allowing for stronger enforcement,” said Stone. “This is about ensuring the regulations are more effective in protecting the travelling public.”

The party bus industry has come under scrutiny in recent years not only due to its growing popularity among groups looking for a safe way to drink without driving, but because two young people died while using the service.

Sixteen-year-old Maple Ridge teen Shannon Raymond died in 2008 after drinking alcohol and then boarding a party

bus, where she took a fatal dose of the street drug MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy.

And only two years ago another 16-yearold boy, Ernest Azah Azoadam, collapsed on board a party bus in Surrey. He died of

“undetermined causes” although toxicology tests found alcohol in his blood and evidence of prior use of marijuana.

In an Oct. 30, 2014 B.C. Supreme Court decision surrounding a “bloody and senseless” Cloverdale brawl involving severely intoxicated teenagers, the Crown argued the incident “screams” for greater regulation and oversight of the industry.

A charter bus carrying about 50 young people during an after-grad celebration made a stop at a Husky Station late on July 18, 2012, when a violent confrontation took place with a 22-year-old Surrey motorist.

“This case is a tragic example of what can happen when underaged teens are allowed to get drunk on ‘party buses,'” Crown prosecutor Winston Sayson said at the time.

Tommy Cuscito, owner and operator of Vancouver Party Bus, with 13 vehicles

in his fleet serving all of Metro Vancouver including Surrey, said the changes will likely “weed out” businesses with poor oversight.

He said the license will create a more “level playing field,” adding his prices were

competitively disadvantaged because he pays more money to ensure underage clients are safe.

“That was one of my Achilles Heels, because I was one of the more expensive party buses because I provide chaperones and make sure things meet and exceed what the government has asked us to do,” he said.

Cuscito’s company provides male and female chaperones for

underage clients to make sure they’re not bringing anything illegal into the party bus or limo.

While he acknowledged the changes to licensing were likely due to the deaths of young people, Cuscito was quick to defend his service.

“Those two deaths that occurred on the party buses had nothing to do with the party bus. Those two deaths could have happened at a movie theatre. They could happen at a roller rink, ice rink, that could

happen right in the middle of someone’s living room.”

Cuscito said the incidents were “isolated” and have nothing to do with the party bus industry or operators who “work hard trying to make it safe and fun” for clients.

Companies who are currently allowed to operate limousines or party buses now have until May 1 to get a “Special Authorization” license from the province’s Passenger Transportation Board. Cuscito said the onemonth time frame is short considering the number of vehicles and companies that will suddenly need these new license plates.

“Hopefully they’re on board and they try to help us here. Because if we put in an application they could take weeks to do one.”

Stone said the changes eliminate the competitive advantage limousine operators had previously, which allowed them to set rates, work anywhere in the province and add vehicles to their fleet at any time. The new license will require rates, areas of operation and fleet size to be regulated by the board and applicants will be subject to a review process prior to approval.

With files from Tom Zytaruk amacnair@thenownewpaper.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Corner of Fraser Highway and 152 Street traffic camera. (Surrey Cosmos)
One dead after targeted shooting in Surrey

Incident took place near shopping complex at the corner of 152 Street and Fraser Highway

(Black Press Media files)
‘Potentially damaging’ winds expected in Metro Vancouver

Wind is expected to pick up late Sunday night

Items collected from last year’s Ocean Park Food Drive. (Contributed file photo)
Ocean Park Food Drive expands, open to residents south of 32 Avenue

Homeowners south of 32 Avenue and west of 160 Street encouraged to put donations on doorstep

(Photo: Amy Reid)
VIDEO: 2020 Community Leader Awards recognize Surrey’s unsung heroes

They don’t often receive recognition and don’t necessarily have a high profile in the community

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Langley RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the Riverside Calvary church in Langley in the 9600 block of 201 Street for holding an in-person service on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, despite a provincial COVID-19 related ban (Dan Ferguson/Black Press Media)
Updated: Langley church fined for holding in-person Sunday service

Calvary church was fined $2,300 for defying provincial order

The Abbotsford Police Department is investigating a shooting on Adair Avenue on Saturday night. (Photo by Dale Klippenstein)
Drive-by shooting in Abbotsford targeted home with young children, police say

Investigators believe home was mistakenly targeted by assailants

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

(File photo)
Vancouver police warn of toxic drug supply after 7 people overdose at one party

Seven people between the ages of 25 to 42 were taken to hospital for further treatment.

Most Read