Proposed Greyhound cuts would leave riders in the lurch

Greyhound’s plans to cut service in Northeast B.C. is quickly proving to have impacts on travellers both local and abroad.

The bus company has applied to the BC Passenger Transportation Board for permission to cut four of its northern routes, including from Prince George to Dawson Creek, and from Dawson Creek and Whitehorse. It also wants to cut routes between Prince George and Valemount and Prince Rupert.

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“The reality is that we can no longer operate the unsustainable routes, and we are proposing changes that will make other BC routes more viable,” said Stuart Kendrick, vice president of Greyhound Canada in a release.

Ridership on northern routes has dropped 51 per cent since 2010, the company says.

In 2016, the Fort St. John depot saw 3,807 departures and 3,699 arrivals, down from 4,685 departures and 4,275 arrivals in 2015. So far in 2017, the depot has seen 3,181 departures and 3,365 arrivals.

Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman has been in contact with the board.

“There has been conversation in the community about the cost of flights being so low that people no longer use the service,” Ackerman said. “That is honestly irrelevant as the bus stops at all smaller communities that airlines do not.”

Fort St. John city council has already “informally decided to respond in a very robust way and we will ratify that by resolution,” she added.

At the Fort St. John depot earlier this month, international tourists Marena and Gary McFarlane sat waiting for their ride to Fort Nelson to visit family.

Being from Melbourne, Australia, the couple had never travelled by Greyhound before, but found the cost was much more reasonable than airfare.

“Flying would be really expensive,” said Marena. “You need to be able to get from one place to another.”

The couple could have rented a car, but Marena wasn’t thrilled with the idea of driving on the right side of the road.

They were the only people getting on the northbound bus that morning, and when their bus arrived—half an hour late—only six people got off. Trying to fill a 50-person bus is getting harder these days, according to staff at the depot.

Southbound passengers weren’t too impressed with the news either.

Danny Carter was on his way to Quesnel Sept. 1. Carter works for the railway, and said he’ll often see maybe five passengers on Via Rail between Prince George and Jasper.

“It’s a very bad idea,” he said. “There’s no other alternative for passengers to go anywhere ... Fort St. John is isolated.”

While the province is working on subsidizing a bus route along the Highway of Tears, Peace Region riders will have very limited options for travelling north or south if the Greyhound cuts are approved. 

Phallon Stoutenberg, outreach co-ordinator for the Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society, said Greyhound is often the only option for women and children fleeing domestic violence in the area. Last week, the society sent a women home to Prince George on the Greyhound.

“Through Community Bridge, we bought a bus ticket and she’s safe now,” Stoutenberg said. “If there’s no bus service, what are we supposed to do? Get her a $400 plane ticket?

“It’s such a major impact for service providers.”

Considering the number of women that have disappeared in the area over the years, the society’s executive director Amanda Trotter’s biggest fear is that these clients will start hitchhiking if the bus isn’t available. 

“That keeps me up at three in the morning is someone saying ‘I’ll just hitchhike,’” she said.

ahendry@ahnfsj.ca

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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