A longtime pillar of Canada’s transportation industry will soon disappear from Western Canada and northern Ontario.
Greyhound Canada announced on Monday, July 9, that as of Oct. 31, the company will end bus service in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as northern Ontario and most of British Columbia, where the lone remaining route, between Vancouver and Seattle, will be handled by Greyhound’s American cousin.
The company blamed the decision on several factors, including a 41 per cent decline in ridership since 2010. “… simply put, the issue that we have seen is the routes in rural parts of Canada, specifically Western Canada, are just not sustainable anymore,” Greyhound Canada senior vice-president Stuart Kendrick said in a Canadian Press story.
Unfortunately, it’s those rural areas of Western Canada which have relied on the service provided by Greyhound, and it’s the people in those areas who are going to suffer the impact of Greyhound’s withdrawal of service.
Kendrick estimated that Greyhound’s decision will affect an estimated two million consumers.
Greyhound Canada’s roots go back almost 90 years, to 1929, when the company originated in B.C. and then expanded service to Alberta.
For the decades since then, Greyhound buses have been an essential service to many people throughout the West, particularly in the rural parts of the region.
For people of modest financial means, with countless students and seniors among them, Greyhound was a vital lifeline to get them where they needed to go in the most cost-effective way available. Not everyone can afford to fly and not everyone has a vehicle at their disposal.
Some of the void can be filled by other bus companies or other options, but where the impact of Greyhound’s end of service will really be felt is in rural and isolated areas where other options simply aren’t available.
Northern residents are especially worried about the loss of Greyhound service. Sheila North, grand chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, said there’s a high demand for transportation services in the North, “especially for those that live in poverty, but also who have medical needs that need to get down to the south for resources that are not accessible in the North.”
People in the northern region will be left in limbo with the departure of Greyhound’s services.
Even here in southern Alberta, where there are more transportation options available, there are residents who will find it more challenging to travel without the iconic Greyhound buses to rely on.
“For low-income families, that is their one way to travel, everything else is so expensive,” one local resident told a Herald reporter. “I have used Greyhound myself many times, and that was it — it was the cheapest option to get from one city to another. Without that, you are kind of stuck where you are.”
In January, it was announced that the federal government had so far spent $108 million on providing high-speed internet service in rural areas of the country. One could argue that transportation in rural areas is an even more essential service.
Greyhound Canada had long advocated for a community funding model that would allow private carriers to bid on essential rural services. Kendrick also said the company will continue to urge Ottawa to look into improving transportation in northern communities.
Many residents will be counting on Ottawa to take action on the issue. Transportation is without question a vital need, and once Greyhound service in the West comes to an end, it’s a need that many Canadians could have trouble meeting.