GREYHOUND shouldn’t be cutting its Hwy16 service, city councillors decided at their Oct. 22 meeting.
And they’ll be contacting the provincial Passenger Transportation Board to make their position known.
Greyhound wants to cut the number of east-west buses trips on Hwy16 from a minimum of 22 trips a week to 14, citing continuing operating losses and low ridership, and has asked the board to approve the reduction.
But city councillors said cuts are not in the best interests of northwestern residents.
“I think that it’s a terrible PR move on their behalf especially since we are the Highway of Tears,” said city councillor Stacey Tyers at the council meeting Oct. 22.
Councillor Marylin Davies agreed, with more on council sharing concern that a decrease in service could lead to more hitchhiking along Hwy16.
“It is a safety issue,” said Mayor Dave Pernarowski, making note that for those who live in more rural areas depend on the bus service to access many services. “The other option is hitchhiking.”
While Greyhound wants to eliminate some routes to cut its losses in the face of rising costs and dropping passenger numbers, the northwest is expecting an increase in population, added Pernarowski.
“Maybe the timing might be a little off,” he noted. “We’re expecting a surge.”
And that surge could mean an increase in a need for the transportation of goods as well, said Pernarowski.
Kitimat-Stikine regional district directors also oppose Greyhound’s plan, deciding at their Oct. 19 meeting to send a letter to the passenger transportation board.
Rural Terrace area director Doug McLeod did day, however, that while he sympathized with people wanting the service to stay the same, Greyhound was a business trying to curb its financial losses.
“This is a business and we’re telling them to lose money,” said McLeod.
Telegraph Creek director Dave Brocklebank said Greyhound has a licence on the northern route and if it wants to give up the licence and another bus line wants to take it over, then do it.
Greyhound has reported that scaling back its services across B.C. could reduce its losses here by approximately $6.75 million and city council did centre some discussion on how much influence government really has on a private enterprise.
“It’s supply and demand,” said councillor James Cordeiro. “If people aren’t willing to take the bus, Greyhound isn’t going to run the buses.”
Codeiro also pointed out that Greyhound isn’t planning to cancel its services here altogether, but make a reduction, meaning bus transportation will still be available.
From Greyhound’s perspective, it is hoped that a reduction in the number of busses running means passenger numbers spread among trips now will funnel to the busses on the proposed schedule.
“When you take these schedules off, that’s the direct cost saving in operating those, thus making those trips that are left more profitable,” said Grant Odsen, B.C. Greyhound passenger manager.
Despite running at an overall loss in B.C. of $14.1 million, Odsen said there are reasons the service continues to run in the province.
“B.C. is part of a larger network that goes across Canada,” he said. “Even if we’re running at some kind of a loss … that helps to maintain the integrity of the entire network.”
While northern B.C. operates on the fringe of the company’s national network of bus services, Odsen said a reduction in services here is more appropriate than cancellation of services.
“Again, it’s just part of network integrity … if we can get the changes we’re looking for, our hope is we can start to generate profitability on those routes.”
This falls in line with a suggestion from councillor Lynne Christiansen, that Greyhound work to make using its services more attractive to northern residents.
“We’re here to represent the needs of our citizens,” said councillor Marylin Davies.
Each person on city council agreed, voting in favour of sending a letter.