KAMLOOPS — WHY WAS ANYONE surprised at the cancellation of Greyhound bus service in Western Canada? You’d think it came straight out of the blue.
Certainly, we shouldn’t under-estimate the significance of Greyhound’s decision. It’s nothing short of a crisis.
People in small communities depend on Greyhound to get them from one place to another to see family, to access health care and any other number of reasons. It’s their connection to the outside world.
The elimination of Greyhound’s service leaves them stranded.
But it definitely should not have come as a surprise. Greyhound has been gradually cutting service for years. Rural mayors have warned all along that the loss of Greyhound would be the “death knell” of their towns.
Six months ago, when Greyhound announced more reductions to rural service, B.C. Transportation Minister Clare Trevena said she’d talk to mayors to find solutions.
Now, with the outright cancellation of all service except for one route between Vancouver and Seattle, her response is to talk to the mayors again. The BC Liberals, for their part, blame the NDP, but what solution do they offer? Nothing.
Blaming the company doesn’t do any good, either. Greyhound says ridership has dropped dramatically and the service simply isn’t sustainable any longer. We can’t force a company — even one with a monopoly — to stay in business if it can’t make a profit.
However, the situation can’t be allowed to stand. Bus service must be restored, and while small companies will fill the void here and there, the country needs a national bus service.
That means, a bus service subsidized by taxpayers as part of our national transportation system, in the same way we pay for roads, bridges and ferries. The way we once did with rail and air travel.
That might seem unpalatable, and I’m not crazy about the idea, either, but I’m even less crazy about leaving residents in thousands of communities cut off.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.