by Andru McCracken
Three months after applying to discontinue five bus routes, including McBride’s only bus route, Greyhound Canada is proposing to address the lack of access of rural and remote communities to a “viable and sustainable bus service.”
Greyhound Canada is proposing the government create a Connecting Communities Fund.
The company argues that Federal and Provincial Governments pour billions of dollars into urban public transportation systems, but rely exclusively on the private sector to fund rural intercity transportation.
Municipalities and First Nations could access the Connecting Communities Fund and then seek competitive bids from transportation providers, according to Greyhound’s proposal. The idea is to better link rural areas to regional hubs like Prince George or Kelowna.
The company said the solution might not benefit Greyhound Canada at all, because every contract would be awarded based on competitive bids.
Greyhound Canada Vice President Peter Hammel said that there proposal is based on a similar funding model exists in the United States used to service tribal areas.
“It is state funded, they determine the level of assistance required and they fund that product. Greyhound is sometimes the carrier, sometimes not,” said Hammel.
Hammel said if the program was approved, his company would have a good shot.
“You would have to assume that the incumbent who has the base of operations the resources and the business acumen would be the player in this carrier,” he said.
“We want a fair and level playing field, but there is no private sector company that can maintain a public transportation system without some sort of assistance,” he said.
McBride Village Councillor Harold Edwards said that the fund seemed like a good idea.
“I’m concerned though that Greyhound may be trying to set it up in order to shirk responsibilities that they have in the people transportation area,” said Edwards. “The situation reminds me of the manner in which the railroads try to drop passenger service because it interferes with what they see as their business model (hauling freight).”
Edwards said that rail and highway transportation companies benefit from public investment in infrastructure, and they use that infrastructure to make a profit.
“It may be a good idea to have more public control of the transportation sector,” said Edwards.