Ever since Greyhound announced on Monday its plan to cancel routes in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba by Oct. 31, Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett’s been receiving calls from concerned constituents.
“One person told me it’s devastating because that’s how her mom comes up to visit her from the coast,” Barnett told the Tribune Tuesday. “Another couple told me the Greyhound is how their children travel home from university on long weekends.”
Critical of the Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena, Barnett said she didn’t try and do more investigations when Greyhound announced it was cutting its northern route from Prince Rupert to Prince George.
“Many communities have nothing, they don’t even have a taxi service,” Barnett said. “We do have the Northern Health Bus, but with our population of aging people, we need a bus service.”
Barnett encouraged people to write the minister to say it’s time BC Transit moved out of the urban centre and started to focus on all of B.C.
“If ridership is down 41 per cent, Greyhound could have cut the number of trips,” Barnett said. “Costs have gone up so I doubt they could have increased the fares anymore. You take the carbon tax alone and what that has done to the cost of fuel.”
Several passengers shared their disappointment as they waited to catch the bus out of Williams Lake Tuesday morning.
“I am heart-sickened they want to close it down,” said Bernadette Davies who was taking the bus to see her parents in Armstrong.
“This is a last minute decision to go because my parents are ill,” Davies said. “I don’t like to drive by myself so I always take the bus and count on it. I’m just angry.”
Bev Price was taking the bus home to Chilliwack after coming to Williams Lake to visit her grandchildren and great grandchildren, something she does quite often.
“I’m sorry to hear it will be closing,” Price said.
“When something like this is closing I can’t help but think about all the people who will be out of work.”
The closure will be unfortunate for people who need to travel and cannot afford to fly, Rene Escalante said.
“I’m a worker from Vancouver and it’s the only transportation I use,” Escalante said. “Now I will have to spend more money buying flights.”
Gary Mason, who was taking the bus to go pick up a vehicle in Chilliwack, said he normally rides on Greyhound about four times a year.
“I think it will leave a void,” he said of the service being discontinued, but added in fairness ridership has been low.
Sometimes there have only been six people on the bus when he’s been on it.
“I do understand the need to be cost-effective,” Mason said.
Cariboo Regional District Board Chair Margo Wagner said she was disappointed Greyhound did not consider other options, such a smaller buses.
“I know their freight services are relatively busy,” Wagner added. “I can’t imagine how people are going to manage because with Canada Post it’s fairly expensive to send a parcel.”
Wagner said she anticipated the CRD would be writing a letter of concern.
“It is totally unacceptable and unfortunately because Greyhound is a private company, the province doesn’t have any clout to say ‘you can’t do this.’”
Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb said the news was “horrendous” for the region.
“We have no rail service, no bus service now, what are people to do?” Cobb said. “But I don’t know the numbers myself and if people aren’t using it then what can we say?”
Minister Trevena said in a press release Monday she plans to meet with other service providers in the next weeks and months to discuss ways of ensuring 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,” she said.
In a media release issued Monday, Greyhound noted the decision is regrettable and is due to declining ridership in rural communities and increased competition from national and inter-regional passenger transportation services.