Kasper Transportation shuttered its bus route between Selkirk and Winnipeg earlier this week, leaving some Selkirk residents wondering – again – how they will get to Winnipeg.
“University students, for example, they’re going to have to find a place (in Winnipeg)… because with no buses, they’re going to be stuck,” said Selkirk resident Matthew Wilson.
“No buses? It makes things impossible for seniors who don’t drive.”
Wilson recently walked most of the way to Selkirk from Winnipeg, he said — about 35 kilometres.
This is the third time in as many years that a private bus service from Selkirk to Winnipeg has closed down. Beaver Bus Lines shut down completely in 2016, and Executive Bus Lines also tried to run the route, but closed in 2018 after about a year.
Kasper Transportation couldn’t continue operating the route without a government subsidy from either the municipal, federal or provincial level, CEO Kasper Wabinski said.
Kasper Transportation approached Selkirk for a subsidy, but was denied, he said.
Selkirk doesn’t subsidize for-profit businesses, but the company didn’t provide enough information for the city to even do its due diligence, Selkirk CAO Duane Nicol said.
He also noted that to his understanding, the company didn’t approach any other municipality for a grant, including the ones it stopped in between the two cities.
The province of Manitoba said they do not provide subsidies for buses any longer.
“Manitoba ceased support for both charter and scheduled bus services operating in Manitoba when the Motor Transport Board dissolved on March 1,” a provincial spokesperson in charge of the transportation file wrote in an email.
After Greyhound shut down all of its routes west of Sudbury, Ont. on Oct. 31, 2018, the federal government announced $10 million in temporary, 50-50 cost-shared funding to provinces affected to fill in gaps in bus service.
But because the Selkirk to Winnipeg route wasn’t run by Greyhound, Selkirk residents are out of luck for the time being.
“It is not an eligible route for funding,” wrote a Transport Canada spokesperson in an email.
Wabinski said he’s looking to work with the federal government to find a funding solution, and in the meantime, his Thunder Bay-based company is focused on strengthening its other routes and services.
But for people like Bill Smith, they’re out of affordable options.
“For lots of people like me, it’s going to be a not very good thing,” said Smith, who uses a motorized scooter and previously suffered a stroke, causing him to lose his drivers’ license.
“But I know that not many people used it… It costs money to operate a bus, so if they’re not making any money, what can you do?”