Bus services on the brink

Greyhound proposes route reductions to shore up $14.1-million losses

Facing multi-million dollar losses and a significant decline in ridership, Greyhound Canada is proposing to drastically reduce bus services in Vanderhoof and across the province.

Factors such as higher fuel costs, unsustainable passenger losses and competition from government-subsidized transportation agencies are responsible for the proposed service cuts, says Greyhound.

So too are provincial regulations set by the Passenger Transportation Board.

In order to operate in B.C., Greyhound must run a minimum number of bus trips on different corridors each week regardless of passenger demand, as required by the board.

But having lost $14.1 million on its B.C. passenger operations in the last fiscal year, Greyhound has filed an application with the board to reduce the minimum service frequency even further, which would enable the company to generate savings of approximately $6.75 million each year.

Along the Prince George-Fort St. James corridor, where the average passenger load on a 54-seat coach is between five and seven people per trip, Greyhound has proposed to reduce services to one day per week in each direction.

“The facts are there,” said Stuart Kendrick, senior vice president of Greyhound Canada.

“We just hope that the board will recognize the importance of Greyhound’s future in B.C.”

In considering Greyhound’s route-reduction proposal, the board will assess the public’s need for the service, the potential economic effects of reducing the service and whether or not the applicant is able to sufficiently provide the service.

Transportation Minister Mary Polak said she is aware that Greyhound operations in B.C. are at risk and that ministry staff are working on options.

“It’s obvious from what they’re saying that they need to make adjustments or they’re going to have to pull out,” said Polak.

At a council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 9., Mayor Gerry Thiessen and other members of council expressed regret over Greyhound’s route-reduction proposal.

Councillor Louise Levy questioned if Greyhound’s financial losses and ridership declines could be attributed to disagreeable hours of operation, and Councillor Steve Little deliberated whether or not the revenue Greyhound generates by transporting freight could offset the company’s steep annual losses.

“I think we need to be opposed to this,” Thiessen said in response to Greyhound’s proposal.

“The people who need it the most are the people who will be affected the most.”

Along with the proposed service changes, Kendrick said Greyhound will probably look at enhancing its unregulated freight business by adding different types of vehicles, like small trucks and tractor trailers, to its fleet of coaches.

Kendrick said depots and sales agents along the Prince George-Prince Rupert corridor won’t be affected by the proposed route reductions.

Public comments, quoting application #305-12/Route K, can be sent to:

B.C. Passenger Transportation Board

Box 9850 Stn. Prov. Govt.

Victoria, BC V8W 9T5

Fax: 250.953.3788

Email: ptboard@gov.bc.ca

 

Tom Fletcher and Ruth Lloyd contributed reporting.