VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Greyhound announced Monday morning that it would be pulling out of Western Canada.
All routes through the prairie provinces are cancelled, effective October 31st. All routes in BC, except one U.S.-run route from Vancouver to Seattle, will be eliminated as well.
Sue McKortoff is the mayor of Osoyoos and she says this will have a massive impact on rural communities and smaller cities and towns like hers.
McKortoff says while she understands ridership has dropped over the years, the bus provided people with a vital connection to areas outside the Okanagan.
“And it’s not just to the passenger routes, but parcel delivery was a big part of what we had come to rely on. To hear that all these points are being, now, eliminated is awful,” she says. “I’m horrified.”
She says the news is disappointing, especially since they’ve been serving Canadians since “before she can remember.”
“Certainly at Christmas time, you had to book your spot in December [in advance] because it was busy! I’ve taken the bus to Vancouver and back many times. I rely on it as well.”
People can still use BC Transit to get to communities nearby, but McKortoff says this is a blow to their plan to reduce car traffic.
“We need to encourage people to get out of their cars. The mayors along Highway 3 are trying to make this a good route to go one. We’re trying to make it friendly for cyclists to go on, and stopping points to go to. Obviously buses are a huge part of that. We’re trying to encourage transit opportunities.”
She says and it will likely be a hot bottom issue at the annual meeting of the mayors in September, just ahead of the cancellation.
The Mayor of Kamloops, Ken Christian, says the news is shocking, but not completely unexpected because “Greyhound’s heart hasn’t been in it”.
“In particular, service to the smaller rural communities hasn’t really been part of their business model,” he says.
“There’s certainly concern for those employees that work for Greyhound that live in Kamloops, and there’s also concern for those people that rely on Greyhound to access Kamloops for medical appointment, for shopping, for those kinds of essentials.”
He says the express route between Kamloops and Vancouver was quite popular, and he’s hopeful a different carrier will adopt the service along that run.
“Now there’s opportunity for other private sector providers to pick up some of the profitable routes… I’m hoping that new companies with smaller kinds of buses will be able to service these markets more efficiently.”
Time for Uber and Lyft
Christian also says ride-hailing services need to be approved–something he says the provincial government has been way behind on.
The Consumer Choice Center’s David Clement is echoing Christian’s statements, calling for Uber and Lyft to finally be allowed in the province.
“I think when you couple together the withdrawal of Greyhound with the prohibition of ride-sharing, you create a really inaccessible province,” he says.
“[When you travel] to Vancouver you realize how hard it is to move around the city in a way which isn’t going to cost you a fortune, and now we’re going to extrapolate that problem province-wide.”
He says ride sharing should be approved immediately and there may be an avenue for Uber and Lyft to provide longer-distance options like they’ve done in other areas.”
Greyhound cited plummeting ridership numbers for the cancellations–they had already cut back on routes they deemed not profitable.
Clement says if we’re hoping for any other company to take over inter-city routes, the government should look at their own policies that may be making Greyhound-like services undesirable.
“Things like gas taxes, or any other burdensome regulatory structures. Do those disincentivize a company like Greyhound from continuing to offer this service?”
He adds it’s still possible for the government to expand it’s own inter-city bus service already in operation in northern BC, but they should focus on creating a prosperous industry to invite private transportation companies back into the province.
BC to look at other options
BC’s Minister of Transportation, Claire Trevena, says the cancellation is hugely problematic for people who depend on the service, and she’s frustrated the company didn’t give the province a heads up.
“It’s unfortunate that Greyhound did not communicate their plans sooner. At no point did Greyhound reach out to me, or my staff, to have a conversation on solutions to keep people connected — something I would have expected, given their long history in this province,” she says in a release.
She also says she’ll be looking at how to bridge the gap in the meantime.
“In the weeks and months ahead, I will be sitting down with other service providers, the private sector and local government to discuss how we can ensure people have access to safe, reliable and affordable transportation to get from one community to the next. In the meantime, I hope that other local, private operators will see an opportunity to bring a badly needed service to the parts of the province most affected by Greyhound’s decision.”
-With files from Lasia Kreztel, Marcella Bernardo