Ron Hovanes remembers when seeing a Greyhound bus was a common, everyday sight. After Halloween, and, yes, this is no treat nor a trick, they’ll all but be extinct on Western Canadian roads and highways.
“Greyhound was pretty global,” recalled Hovanes, the mayor of Oliver.
“I’m of an age where you grew up, there was Greyhound everywhere you went. It doesn’t matter how big or little the community was, there was usually a Greyhound bus that would be coming through at least once or two or three times a day. Now you’re lucky if they come through once a day.”
On Monday, Greyhound announced that it will be ceasing almost all of its operations in Canada from Sudbury to the Pacific Ocean.
According to the company, ridership is down 41 per cent in all regions since 2010.
The news was stunning. For decades, Greyhound had been a staple in Western Canada, transporting passengers of all ages and through all types of weather. Didn’t feel like driving through terrible January weather? Take the Greyhound. Now, come Oct. 31, the only run to survive the axe will be a cross-border jaunt between Vancouver and Seattle.
“It’s really sad. Greyhound has been around for a long time,” said Mike McLaughlin, a Greyhound bus driver and union rep who was still digesting the news when contacted by Global Okanagan.
McLaughlin said Greyhound jobs total approximately “$1.8 million to the local economy in payroll between Greyhound drivers and agency employees and everything else like that just in Kelowna and West Kelowna.”
Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff was flattened by Greyhound’s decision.
“I’m not happy about it and I don’t think any other mayors in B.C. are going to be happy as well,” McKortoff told Global News.
“We dealt with this about a year ago when Greyhound announced that they were cancelling service from Osoyoos across Highway 3 to Hope. We all wrote letters; Regional District had them come and speak to us. We wrote letters to the passenger transportation board, requesting that they look into this, and that this was a very needed service.”
Small communities like Oliver and Osoyoos are representative of many small towns in Western Canada in that they have very limited public transportation.
“At the town of Oliver, we’ve written numerous letters to Greyhound and to the Transportation Board saying how vital that service is for those people in need,” said Hovanes. “We have quite a large senior population and some that don’t drive.”
Hovanes says maybe provinces need to subsidize public transit even more in rural areas.
“I’ve been in local government long enough to know that it takes taxpayers as a whole to pay for services across the province,” said Hovanes. “But this is a needed service, much like we pay for schools throughout the province in rural areas and hospitals and roads and other things. But to have some form of transportation… it’s hard.
“If the private sector can’t make a go of it, which seems to be the case here, then maybe we need to step up as a society and a group of taxpayers in totality to see if we can support some of these people that will be in need.”
In Kelowna, Mayor Colin Basran said it may be time to look at a home-grown bus service.
“Perhaps we need to have discussions with the provincial government and B.C. Transit about at least a regional service so that people throughout the Okanagan Valley can still connect to the destinations they need to.”