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

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

Just Posted

A Salmon Arm artist worked with talented local fabricators to create an enormous set of steel bighorn sheep horns to greet visitors to Radium Hot Springs. (Village of Radium Hot Springs image)
Salmon Arm locals’ skills bring steel sheep horn sculpture to Radium

Adam Meikle and Idea 64 Projects made the towering horns a reality

Salmon Arm Silverbacks defenceman Kieran Ruscheinski (right) sticks close to Vernon Vipers forward Logan Lorenz during Salmon Arm’s 2-1 overtime win in B.C. Hockey League pod play Saturday, April 10, at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek - Vernon Vipers Photography)
Mack attack paces Salmon Arm Silverbacks past Vernon

Sullivan Mack scores both goals, including beautiful OT winner, in Gorillas’ 2-1 BCHL pod play win over Snakes

Machinery could be seen working to clear land behind a pair of houses on Main Street for the future site of the Shuswap and Secwepmc Healing Centre, a medical facility on Friday, April 9. The Sicamous Fire Department has been using the buildings for training exercises ahead of their demolition. (Jim Elliot/Eagle Valley News)
Snapshot: Clearing space

Land is being cleared for a new medical centre on Sicamous’ Main Street.

Winter driving conditions returned to the Coquihalla Highway on April 10. (ICBC image)
Coquihalla motorists warned of fresh snow

Five to 10 cm of snow is expected today for the mountain highway.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Flight with COVID
Another Kelowna flight with COVID-19 exposure

Westjet flight on April 5 from Kelowna to Edmonton

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.[CDC]
More COVID-19 exposures reported at schools in Kelowna

Interior Health added additional schools and dates to their list of exposures

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

Most Read