More than 80 per cent of inter-city bus services will be picked up with the departure of Greyhound from Western Canada this week, B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena says.
That claim is disputed by B.C. Liberal critics, who said Trevena is using the total length of routes to arrive at the conclusion that 83 per cent of service is replaced.
“I listed 49 communities that will no longer have access to ground transportation once Greyhound ends service on Wednesday,” said Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson. “I would like the transportation minister to back up her claims that these communities will still retain service.”
In the legislature Monday, Larson criticized the government for a “last-minute scramble” that leaves communities like Princeton with no service and others having to make an appointment to get a bus to stop.
Bus services such as Saanich-based Wilson’s Transportation, Saskatchewan’s Rider Express and Merritt Shuttle have received or have pending licences to begin service.
Routes that still don’t have a carrier are Cache Creek to Kamloops, Kamloops to Valemount, Valemount to the B.C.-Alberta border, Dawson Creek to the B.C.-Alberta border, Salmo to Creston, Cranbrook to the Alberta border, Fort Nelson to Yukon border, and the Hope-Princeton route.
“For these eight segments, we are going to be working with the Passenger Transportation Board to issue requests for expressions of interest in the coming weeks, to further engage the private sector on filling the gaps,” Trevena said Monday.
The province isn’t expanding provincially subsidized service beyond B.C. Bus North, a one-year pilot program launched by B.C. Transit in June after Greyhound stopped service from Prince George west to Prince Rupert and north to Dawson Creek and Fort St. John and Fort Nelson at the end of May.
B.C. Bus North also serves Prince George to Valemount, with fares between $35 and $45 for its network. That service is costing taxpayers $2 million for the year, and work is underway to attract a private operator for the northern routes as well.
Trevena said the northern routes have attracted substantial ridership along Highway 16, Highway 97 and points north.
“The current proposed plan of using reservation-based companies, with departures that only happen once or twice a day, is no way to serve residents of this region,” Larsen said. “The change in service will have the most significant impact on our rural seniors.”