Greyhound Canada has announced that it will be discontinuing all bus routes in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba as of October 31st, 2018. It will also stop routing buses through Northwestern Ontario, which means anything beyond Sudbury is axed. In British Columbia, all routes will be discontinued except for the line between Vancouver and Seattle, which is controlled by Greyhound Lines, Inc (US).
Ontario and Quebec will be the only provinces to retain bus service from Greyhound Canada.
Greyhound has been whittling down its service over the years as ridership continues to declide. Stuart Kendrick, Greyhound Canada senior executive, stated on Monday that the situation has continued to worsen. According to the company, ridership has decreased by 41 per cent since 2010 and eight per cent last year in Western Canada.
While this may not seem like a big deal to people who have access to a vehicle or other mode of transportation, for those in isolated agricultural areas, low-income households, or even victims of domestic violence, the decision could prove to be dire.
Is access to transportation a right?
Liz Majic, lawyer and interim legal education and outreach coordinator for Canada Without Poverty, states “human rights is about ensuring equitable access.” She goes on to explain that even though access to Greyhound buses may not be a fundamental human right, route discontinuance could have serious implications and leave many unable to access essential services such as abortion clinics, women’s shelters, or places of employment.
B.C.’s Highway 16, or The Highway of Tears as it more morbidly known, is 724 kilometres long and is often used by hitchhikers. The elimination of bus routes along this stretch in particular increases concern regarding safety, especially for women. A lack of transportation has been noted as an element in the disappearance or murder of at least 18 women and girls, primarily Indigenous, who were left with no choice but to hitchhike. Furthermore, Karen Mason, Executive Director of the Kelowna Women’s Shelter, states that her organization has covered the cost of bus fare for women actively seeking to flee abusive relationships. Often, women in rural communities must relocate and seek asylum for no other reason than safety, and sadly they are often not equipped with the means to do so if their partner controls the finances.
Citizens of larger Canadian cities recognize the importance, and often the necessity, of mobility and reliable transportation in densely populated areas. Sadly, that seems to be where their concern ends. In marked contrast, this logic does not seem to apply to outlying rural areas and the elimination of vital Greyhound lines will force further isolation for agricultural communities across B.C. and the prairies. Canada’s largest reserve, the Blood Indian Reserve in southwest Alberta and its 12,500 residents will also suffer from the repercussions of these recent changes. Ric Tailfeathers, the Band spokesman, claimed that bus use has steadily declined since Greyhound halted services to Fort Macleod, a mere 30 away. According to Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, many indigenous people rely heavily on buses to access medical care, with some individuals having to travel up to 14 to see a doctor.
For many Western Canadians, the elimination of these bus routes will sever a vital lifeline. It is no wonder that many feel as though they will be cut off from the rest of the country. However, Greyhound is still a business and it is unfortunate that their ridership has decreased to the point that they cannot afford to keep these routes running. With competitors on all fronts, whether it be parcel delivery, other bus companies, or budget airlines, these terminations will disadvantage those still loyal to the company – roughly two million consumers – and result in loss of jobs for some 415 Greyhound employees. Many businesses such as restaurants, gas stations, and their own parcel delivery service, may also be forced to go out of business as a result of Greyhound’s termination of services. With many distressed over this decision, people are turning to their federal and provincial governments for a viable solution. As a result, all other transportation options are up for discussion as provinces struggle to deal with the loss with the very little notice they were given by Greyhound.
The small silver lining we can take from this is that Greyhound’s decision does not come into effect until October of this year. There are still a few months to try and come up with a plan or for other companies to step up to the plate to help those most heavily impacted by this change.