Greyhound could soon depart northern B.C. on a one-way ticket

Greyhound could soon depart northern B.C. on a one-way ticket

Can’t compete with new $5 Highway 16 transit: Greyhound.

Transit in Northern B.C. could become more sparse if Greyhound Canada is allowed to pull out.

Greyhound recently filed an application with the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board to discontinue passenger service on five routes, including their daily route along Highway 16 through Smithers.

Among the factors that led to this decision, Greyhound points to urbanization, increased competition from subsidized passenger transportation and ride-sharing services, plus recent reductions in oil prices, which have prompted more people to travel by car.

“Greyhound pulling out is really disappointing news and it’s going to leave some people high and dry,” said Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach.

That subsidized transit was a joint initiative between all three levels of government, First Nations and BC Transit to increase safety by helping people avoid hitchhiking, and connect people to services along the Highway 16 corridor. The first route started in January, connecting Moricetown and Smithers.

The Smithers to Burns Lake, and the Burns Lake to Prince George routes are now running. Hazelton to Terrace, and the Terrace to Kitimat routes are yet to start. Prince Rupert decided to not join the initiative.

The fare for each route is $5.

“Greyhound could no longer sustain the significant losses that we were seeing along these corridors,” said Peter Hamel, regional vice-president of Western Canada, Greyhound Canada.

“We’ve seen losses in the millions of dollars.”

Hamel stated it’s the addition of the BC Transit routes that also led to the application for Greyhound to leave the north.

“They are committed to putting $6 million along that corridor, they have started a number of runs … the significant one is the one to Burns Lake to Smithers with a five dollar fare.”

Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson does not agree that B.C. Transit is one of the reason’s for Greyhound to want out of the north.

“I don’t agree with Greyhound on that part of their analysis. The service that has been improved from a provincial side of public transportation is for designated routes within small regions and communities. It’s not the long-haul service between major communities that Greyhound provides.”

While Greyhound is a business, according to Bachrach there is a social contract.

“I do believe that there is some semblance of a social contract in which the carrier agrees to take on less profitable routes in exchange for more profitable routes,” he said.

“But I certainly sympathize with their situation as a private business and if the market isn’t there, the market isn’t there.”

If Greyhound does get approval to end its bus runs in northern British Columbia, there will be a major gap for those who want to travel Highway 16 on the corridor west of Prince George.

“It’s going to leave a gap in the delivery of transportation services and it’s something that I think the provincial government needs to strongly consider when it thinks about rural development in our region,” said Bachrach.

He added if you don’t own a vehicle and need to travel a long distance across the region, Greyhound is the only option. The Province is discussing options with cabinet and local leaders.

“I’ve talked regularly with Mayor Bachrach and other mayors in my constituency and across the north to listen to what they have as options and what the major challenges they see in this service reduction, but pretty aware of what those are already. We’ll incorporate that into the talks that I’m having with the transportation minister and with MLA Rice,” said Donaldson.

Safety Concern

Brenda Wilson is a Highway of Tears advocate. Her sister Ramona was found murdered near the Smithers airport over 20 years ago.

“For Greyhound to put northern B.C. in this predicament is pretty sad, but at the same time if they are going to pull out then British Columbia needs to look at alternatives that will work for our communities,” she said. “It appears Greyhound is looking for a scapegoat through the new transit system that’s been implemented for Highway 16.”

Wilson added BC Transit only runs through the day, so if Greyhound does leave, there will not be any public transportation after hours.

“It (BC Transit) only goes from point a to point b; it also runs on alternate days … It’s not the Greyhound where they provide service all the way from one town to the next … that could increase the amount of people that would start hitchhiking.”

“I just want people to be safe on Highway 16,” she stated.

Donaldson said fewer option will make things difficult for the people he knows who use Greyhound

“People in northern B.C. deserve transportation services just as much as anybody else in the province, and in some cases our transportation services are even more critical because there aren’t any other options,” Donaldson stated.

“What I’ve been hearing is a lack of options. This is on a regional basis for long haul routes; Greyhound is the only option that people have. I know people in my communities who use this service and the train service is not an adequate replacement.”

Businesses also rely on the bus company to bring their workers to their site.

“One local business talked about the role Greyhound plays in helping them get employees to their worksite, and certainly the loss of Greyhound will affect them in terms of their ability to operate,” said Bachrach.

Greyhound’s B.C. operations will continue to operate normally on these routes during the regulatory process review period. The company does not foresee any changes to operations in 2017.

It also does not plan to end parcel delivery.

“Subject to the outcome of the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board’s review of our application we do not anticipate these changes will come into effect until early 2018,” stated the company.

Jarrett Anderson, who sells Greyhound tickets in his Burns Lake store which includes Blu Jay Sports and Sears, said he was not surprised by this announcement.

“We knew that once they [Province] put the new transit bus in, there was probably a good chance that Greyhound was going to pull the passenger service,” he said.

“Greyhound warned local governments that this was a possibility if things went through,” he added.

However, Anderson said his business likely won’t be hugely impacted since Greyhound intends to continue with its freight services along the Highway 16 route.

Greyhound’s lack of ridership is partly to do with the bus times, according to Wilson.

“The times that they arrive to many of these towns along Highway 16, like 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. arrival in some towns with no cab service … some of these stops are by bars. That’s an issue of safety for some of the people that use the bus,” he said.

Skeena Liberal MLA Ellis Ross said he’s interested to hear how the government will respond to Greyhound’s application.

“It’s definitely a concern. All the services combined were fulfilling a need for transportation for all the rural areas here,” said Ross.

If Greyhound did pack it in, that would mean a gap in service for areas that contain the most vulnerable, he added.

“I’ve seen previous applications for other regions for the same kinds of reasons, but other regions don’t have [the same issues], especially when we’re talking about the Highway of Tears,” said Ross.

Ridership drops 51%

As for if Greyhound should be subsidized, Hamel doesn’t believe they should be and another bus company will struggle with these routes if there isn’t a subsidy.

“Whether it’s Greyhound or another entity, will find it very difficult to make these corridors work without some sort of gap funding,” he said.

Since 2010, ridership on these five routes has dropped by 51 per cent. Greyhound’s ridership province-wide has dropped by 46 per cent in the same period.

Hamel added Greyhound had two schedules along that route, decreased it to one and that one schedule is no longer turning a profit.

“Ridership on that is sometimes less than 10, and now to compete with a five dollar fare, that’s just not a market we can manage,” he said.

According to statistics provided by BC transit, the Smithers to Telkwa portion had people take 11,307 rides in 2016-17.

The Prince George to Burns Lake route has transported passengers 208 times, and the Burns Lake to Smithers route had 140 rides in the first month they’ve been in operation.

According to Greyhound, the company has taken numerous steps between 2010 and 2017 to address the issue of declining ridership, including regulatory applications, cost-saving business decisions and discussions with government to stem losses in B.C.

“We need to start at a very high level and ask ourselves what is our vision for mobility in northern B.C. and how does mobility contribute to people’s quality of life in small communities … working from there we need to put systems in place that work for citizens,” said Bachrach.

BC Transit

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The Greyhound Bus depot in Smithers. Josh Casey photo

The Greyhound Bus depot in Smithers. Josh Casey photo

Just Posted

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

That’s Houston physician Dr. Stefanie Steel receiving her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Jan. 19, 2021 from RN nurse manager Cindy Cockle. (Northern Health photo)
First Houston vaccinations take place

Long term care residents, health care workers on list

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

COVID-19 exposure reported at Houston Secondary. (Houston Today photo)
COVID-19 exposure reported at Houston Secondary School

Self-monitoring for symptoms encouraged

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

Fossils found the prove the existence of an ancient Taiwanese worm as long as two metres

Most Read