'Problematic and tragic': Canadians react to Greyhound decision to cut, reduce routes
Amanda Coletta, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Monday, July 9, 2018 9:27PM EDT
Greyhound Canada’s announcement that it will eliminate or reduce passenger and freight routes in Western Canada was met with disappointment on Monday, with lawmakers and activists warning that it will leave the country’s most marginalized communities no choice but to opt for dangerous forms of travel.
The company said that a “challenging transportation environment” and declining ridership forced it to cut all routes in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and to end all routes across the B.C. mainland with the exception of the one linking Vancouver to Seattle.
Rick Chrest, the mayor of Brandon, Man., told CTV News Channel that while there “were warning signs over the past few years” that Greyhound was having trouble making its routes sustainable, he was nevertheless “very disappointed to learn of this news.”
“It’s just another accessible form of transportation that will be lost,” Chrest said, noting that many people in his city use Greyhound services to travel for medical appointments. “There will be some necessity-type travel that is going to be hampered by this announcement.”
He said that while private bus companies and shuttles will “be able to fill some of the void,” he is hopeful that the private sector will step in as well.
In British Columbia, where the cancellation of Greyhound Canada’s northern route from Prince George to Prince Rupert went into effect June 1, lawmakers said that a further reduction of service would disproportionately affect its most at-risk communities.
“This move will leave people with limited options to get around, and this will likely impact the most vulnerable,” Claire Trevana, the province’s transportation and infrastructure minister, said in a statement. "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."
Arlen Dumas, the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, echoed Trevana and called Greyhound’s announcement “very problematic and tragic.”
He said he was particularly concerned because of the role that a lack of safe and accessible transportation has played in the disappearances of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“In British Columbia where we have the Highway of Tears, (there are) consequences to forcing people to hitch hike or to travel with uncertainty,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that decisions are made and that dialogue is an afterthought.”
Harry Gow, chairman of the board of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and president emeritus of Transport Action Canada, told CTV News Channel that Greyhound’s announcement left him “disappointed, but not surprised.”
“In the last month, Greyhound has already dumped many routes in British Columbia,” he said. “I’ve just been waiting for the second shoe to drop.”
Gow said that even though some private operators have stepped in to fill the gaps in B.C., the routes that they operate are a “disappointment.”
“They’ll be operating sections where there’s an intense local need, but not thinking about the cross-country linkups,” he said. “Canada as a transcontinental country only exists for people that have cars or fly now. The motor coach was the last refuge of the ordinary person and now they’re going to have to hoof it.”
'An issue of national importance'
Brian Mason, Alberta’s transportation minister, described Greyhound’s decision as “an issue of national importance” and called on the federal government “to step up and come up with a national solution that keeps Canadians connected across the country.”
A spokesperson for Marc Garneau, Canada’s transport minister, said in a statement that intercity bus services like Greyhound “operate on a commercial basis with no support from the federal government.”
“In 2010, a task force of the provinces and the federal government recommended that there was no need for a national program to subsidize the operations of intercity bus carriers, but that individual jurisdictions could subsidize specific routes and carriers on a case-by-case basis,” it continued.
In Quebec, for instance, Gow said that his organization, with the help of the provincial government, set up a transit system that runs from Ottawa to Montreal in order to deal with similar route cancellations.
“It’s paid for in large measure by the fare box and the province,” he said. “That has reduced hitch hiking.”
Riders weigh in
Some riders said the announcement left them surprised because their experiences of riding Greyhound buses contradict the company’s rationale for cancelling the services.
Tiwisha Smallegs, who frequently rides the bus from Calgary to Lethbridge, Alta., told CTV News Channel that there is always a lineup to purchase tickets for her route.
“That really sucks for all of us people that ride the Greyhound,” she said.
Frank Bruce, who sometimes takes the Greyhound from Winnipeg to northern Ontario, told CTV Winnipeg that “sometimes you’re lucky if you even get a seat.”
He said he would be reliant on the train in the future -- a change that he welcomed.
“If someone’s kid if crying (on the Greyhound), you’re stuck there listening to it,” he said. “At least on the train, you can move into another cabin.”