Greyhound wants to trim northwest BC service

Public can comment on the reduction proposal up to Oct. 24

CITING CONTINUING losses, Greyhound wants to cut its northwest bus service frequency.

The company now runs 11 buses eastbound and 11 westbound each week for a total of 22 along Hwy16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert but should its reduction application be accepted, that frequency could drop to just one each way each day or 14 a week.

In its application to the provincial Passenger Transportation Board, the bus company said it could reduce its BC losses by approximately $6.75 million if it was able to eliminate one route and cut service on 15 others.

People who wish to comment on Greyhound’s plans have until Oct. 24 to contact the transportation board.

Greyhound has been cutting service on routes elsewhere in Canada in the face of rising costs and dropping passenger numbers.

The two routes Greyhound wants eliminated run overnight – one west from Prince Rupert to Prince George and the other east from Prince George to Prince Rupert.

The average passenger load on one is 10.5 and the other is 11, with both generating barely $2.30 of revenue per passenger mile.

Greyhound BC passenger service manager Grant Odsen did note that the cuts requests would establish minimum levels of service and that the number of runs could increase.

We can just schedule more. We don’t have to apply,” he said.

But Odsen did note that any increase in service depends upon an increase in the number of passengers and revenue.

He did say that while the regional economy may be picking up, “we haven’t seen a big change in ridership up there.”

Greyhound also said the number of people taking the Northern Health Authority’s Northern Health Connections bus service has also cut into its passenger base.

That service, which runs from Prince Rupert to Prince George, into northeastern BC and down to Vancouver, is heavily subsidized by the provincial government via a grant to the health authority.

The round trip rate of $40 between Prince George and Terrace is for a service that runs each way four days a week.

The one good thing about the Northern Health Authority service is that you have to have a bona fide medical appointment,” Odsen acknowledged.

Odsen said he realized the Greyhound application would affect people.

I do feel for the smaller communities to some extent and know they will feel cutoff. But we’re seeing a shift in demographics among a number of other things. Unfortunately, we need to make a business case,” he said.

Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin said he hoped people and groups will make comments to the Passenger Transportation Board by the Oct. 24 deadline.

The board can, if it wishes, hold hearings into applications.

Clearly it’s a service we need in the north,” said Austin of Greyhound. “And we are trying to stop women from hitchhiking. That can be very dangerous.”

Terrace city councillor Stacey Tyers said she’ll be asking for council support in sending a letter advocating that Greyhound not reduce its service.

We are the Highway of Tears,” said Tyers in noting that without bus service, the only method of transportation between locations along Hwy16 for some people is to hitchhike.

Greyhound was last given permission by the Passenger Transportation Board to cut service in 2006.

It had asked, based on low ridership numbers, to reduce its service to once each way each day, or 14 trips a week, the same reduction it is now requesting.

But after hearings were held in Terrace, Greyhound amended its cut request to the current level of service.