Three years after Greyhound shuttered its routes across Northern B.C., the region remains without a long-term transportation plan from the province, says B.C.’s auditor general.
The Office of the Auditor General released Tuesday a report, Ensuring Long-distance Ground Transportation in Northern B.C., which acknowledges that the province did pivot to implement interim services through BC Bus North to help cover routes Greyhound abandoned.
However, those routes reach only 35 of the 62 stops near communities that Greyhound had served, and trips are also less frequent — down to once or twice a week compared to the daily trips on most Greyhound routes, according to the audit.
Funding for BC Bus North, which was supposed to be interim, has now been extended three times, the audit noted.
"Northern B.C. is an area larger than the entire country of France and the bus is a lifeline for many residents in places like Prince George, Prince Rupert, Fort Nelson, and Valemount,” Auditor General Michael Pickup said in a release. “People depend on the bus to get to jobs in other communities, access essential services like health care, go to school, or visit family and friends.”
Use of the Greyhound along the Alaska Highway between Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson dropped from 18,307 passengers in 2014 to 9,647 in 2017.
The audit found that while a province-wide intercity ground transportation plan is being developed, it’s unclear how this planning work will lead to a sustainable solution specifically for the north. The ministry has done some community engagement on the needs of northern residents, but broader consultation has been limited because of the pandemic, the audit said.
"The ministry has made progress in its planning but needs to make clear how its province-wide plan will support northern B.C. specifically," said Pickup. "Northern regions have particular transportation needs - the distances are vast, roads can be treacherous and alternatives are few. People's livelihoods are on the line. I hope the ministry will consult with northern residents to ensure that the plan meets the unique needs of the region."
BC Bus North fares are about 50% less than Greyhound fares, according to the audit, and while the province has been monitoring financial data, it has not been monitoring all of the passenger and service data as required under agreements, the audit said.
The audit includes three recommendations to improve monitoring of BC Bus North, engaging with northern communities, and presenting options for sustainable transportation in the north. Those recommendations were accepted by the transportation ministry, according to the release.
Read the auditor general's report in full below:
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