by Andru McCracken
Diminishing ridership. Escalating costs. Increased competition from publicly subsidized services. Greyhound cites these three reasons for their proposed cuts to five routes in British Columbia. If approved, it would leave a huge part of the province without passenger bus service (see accompanying map on P3), including McBride.
People in Valemount would no longer be able to take the bus directly to Prince George without first travelling through Kamloops.
But it’s not certain whether Greyhound’s wish will be granted, and bus routes will continue as normal until early 2018, even if the changes are approved.
Denise Yungen works at the Farm Store, which is also the Greyhound Depot, in McBride. Yungen sees the importance of the service.
“For this little community, it is huge,” said Yungen. “Lots of people leave from here that have doctor appointments.”
Yungen said because the health bus isn’t always practical, people continue to use the Greyhound for health appointments.
“Not everyone can get their appointment on the Tuesday or Thursday,” she said.
She said ridership is especially high in the winter, as people often choose the bus instead of driving on winter roads.
Yungen says she worries about the safety of kids who might decide to hitchhike to see family.
“If nothing else, our government needs to do something,” she said.
Plummeting ridership is the reason they want to abandon the route, says Peter Hamel, Regional Vice-President for Western Canada of Greyhound Canada. And the numbers he cites are shocking. In 2013 an average of 15 riders rode each bus between Prince George and Valemount. Since then things have gotten worse.
“The average in 2017 is five (per bus),” said Hamel.
Hamel said the Passenger Transportation Board can agree to cut all the routes, none of the routes and anything in between.
Because bussing is a regulated industry, the carrier must apply to the Passenger Transportation Board.
According to Jan Broocke, Director of the Passenger Transportation Board, they consider the public need for the service, whether the applicant is ‘fit and proper and capable’ of providing the service, and whether the application promotes sound economic conditions in the transportation business.
MLA Shirley Bond said that this isn’t the first time Greyhound has attempted to reduce service.
“I was engaged with Greyhound in 2009,” said Bond. “I met with them to talk about what we could do.”
She said that while there was ultimately a reduction in service the routes remained.
Bond and the BC Liberal Caucus are calling for the Transportation Minister Claire Trevena to sit down with Greyhound, understand what the issues are and see if there is some sort of solution for northern residents.
“My biggest concern is that this reduces options for people who have few other options,” said Bond. “Once it is gone there are no guarantees that something else would replace it.”
She said she has had many conversations with constituents who want the option to remain available.