Northern B.C. leaders, the provincial government, Highway of Tears advocates and northern residents had different reactions to Greyhound’s recent announcement to discontinue passenger services.
Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad and Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond said the NDP government must take action to ensure that Greyhound keeps running in northern B.C.; transportation minister Claire Trevena said she was “deeply concerned.”
I agree that losing a transportation option will be a detriment to northern B.C. I believe it will have an economic impact as many travellers use Greyhound to explore the region, and having a reliable transportation option plays an important role in attracting and retaining workers in remote areas.
Although Via Rail also connects Prince Rupert to Prince George, the train does not run daily and we all know at this point that the train can be up to six hours late since the priority on the tracks is given to freight trains.
But when it comes to ensuring that the most vulnerable members of our society have an affordable transportation option, I believe government is on the right track. The new bus system that started running last June is part of a $6.4 million plan which encompasses transit, community vehicles, First Nations driver education, webcams and bus shelters.
However, the buses do not connect the entire corridor, and they also do not run daily. While the Burns Lake to Smithers and the Burns Lake to Prince George routes are already running, the Hazelton to Terrace and the Terrace to Kitimat routes are yet to start; and Prince Rupert has decided not to join the initiative.
I believe that the province and local governments need to continue working toward expanding and improving this bus service, which is intended to prevent people from hitchhiking. But I don’t agree that government needs to save Greyhound.
As I mentioned in last week’s editorial, I believe Greyhound – or any other private company – could reverse the trend of declining ridership by investing in a marketing strategy (making people see all the advantages in taking public transportation), offering more affordable tickets, comfortable buses, convenient travel times and improving bus stops.
Since I moved up north I noticed that public transportation does not have a good reputation around here. In fact, when I mention that I am taking the bus or the train, I usually have to answer a series of questions because people don’t understand why I am not choosing to drive.
The truth is that I’ve always loved the convenience of not having to worry about parking and of just relaxing and enjoying the view while I travel.
A good place to start would be asking northern residents why they don’t like taking public transportation in the first place. I doubt that Greyhound ever considered asking customers for their feedback.