News that Greyhound Canada is pulling the plug on service in British Columbia at the end of October has shocked and surprised reps from several Shuswap agencies.
Family Resource Centre executive director Patti Thurston says 40 per cent of the organization’s client base relies on Greyhound service regularly – a base that totalled about 12,000 people across all socio-economic lines and all ages in 2015.
“This is horrific, actually,” she said, pointing out some families without cars have had to travel to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver by Greyhound. “There are lots of people who travel for medical treatment.”
“This is isolating people even more,” adds Jane Shirley, executive director of the SAFE Society. “They’ll maybe use unsafe ways to travel, like hitchhiking.”
She says the women’s shelter is often over capacity and clients travel by Greyhound for services in other centres. As well, due to safety reasons, on occasion other women travel by bus from their communities to the Salmon Arm shelter.
“Basically they’re stranded,” she says, noting students and many men who seek shelter in Salmon Arm will be unable to travel safely. “We have minimal service here anyway; this is going to be a challenge for sure.”
Jarvis Wice, vice-president of the Seniors Fifth Avenue Activity Centre, says the loss of a bus service will affect many of the organization’s 700 members.
“Wow! Ouch!” said Wice, noting many of the older members of the centre don’t want to drive to faraway places or have family who can drive them. “The government needs to come up with a reasonable and affordable transportation system for everyone in the province.
“I am totally shocked,” says Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper, who was taken completely off-guard and notes she will be looking into the situation in more detail. “I’m sure this will come up at UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities).”
“It is very disappointing to hear of Greyhound Canada’s decision to terminate passenger and freight services throughout B.C.,” says local chamber of commerce president Fiona Harris. “The Salmon Arm Chamber, as a champion and supporter of small business and entrepreneurship, is confident that new business ventures will be created to provide viable solutions.”
In Sicamous, the local chamber of commerce took over management of the Greyhound depot service on June 26, moving it to the visitor’s centre.
Sicamous Chamber executive director Sheila Devost said there is no real alternative for people who do not drive.
“We’re pretty upset about it seeing how we have just taken that responsibility on,” Devost said, adding that many of the buses stopping in Sicamous are full or near capacity.
“It’s going to be impactful on a great number of people,” she said. “I don’t know how we will mange without a transportation service.”
Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, called Greyhound’s decision “hugely problematic” and will likely impact the most vulnerable.
“It’s unfortunate that Greyhound did not communicate their plans sooner. At no point did Greyhound reach out to me, or my staff, to have a conversation on solutions to keep people connected – something I would have expected, given their long history in this province,” she said in an official ministry statement. “In the weeks and months ahead, I will be sitting down with other service providers, the private sector and local government to discuss how we can ensure people have access to safe, reliable and affordable transportation to get from one community to the next. In the meantime, I hope that other local, private operators will see an opportunity to bring a badly needed service to the parts of the province most affected by Greyhound’s decision.”