KAMLOOPS — What’s this world coming to? We’re losing our department stores, the post office is in trouble, newspapers are dying — what’s next?
Rural bus service, that’s what. The B.C. Passenger Transportation Board begins a week of public meetings tonight in northern B.C. to hear what people think of Greyhound Canada’s plans to cut nine more bus routes.
It’s a sure bet the board will hear more of what it’s been hearing for the past several years as Greyhound steadily cuts service. The public isn’t happy about it, and neither are politicians.
Northern B.C. isn’t the only place in the province facing or already dealing with reductions in passenger-bus service between communities. It’s the same everywhere, including Kamloops and rest of the Southern Interior.
The company says ridership is down, operating costs are up, and savings have to come from somewhere. Critics say it’s just poor management, and that the provincial government should do something to stop the bleeding.
But what? Companies are in business to make money, and this biggest of Canadian bus operators has provided an intricate network of moderately priced connections between towns and cities for decades.
For smaller communities in particular, bus service is pretty much essential.
Admittedly, travelling by Greyhound doesn’t put you in the lap of luxury. Its stations are Spartan and — as many travelers are about to rediscover during the upcoming Christmas season — disorganized chaos when they’re busy.
So, investing in infrastructure might be one option, though doing the opposite of cutbacks clearly isn’t the route the company is on right now.
The provincial government hasn’t come up with any solutions, other than Transportation Minister Claire Trevena talking to a few mayors about it.
There might only be one answer anyway — government subsidies.
If Greyhound’s service really is essential, taxpayers might have to ante up to keep it going.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.