Greyhound’s newest plan to meet the needs of rural BC bus riders is being received cautiously at the local level.
Princeton Mayor Frank Armitage said council will discuss the matter at an upcoming meeting.
“We’ll have to see what kind of money we are talking about. We want to assist wherever we can with these people who require transportation and I want more details. I don’t believe that this is something that should be downloaded to rural communities.”
In a press release emailed last week Greyhound suggests the creation of a Connecting Communities Fund that would be administered by local municipalities and doled out through a competitive tender process.
“The competitive process would be open to all bidders to select the best private sector transportation provider by community. We share the belief that BC residents should have access to intercity bus transportation options, and private sector operators can ramp up quickly to provide cost-effective services,” the release stated.
The idea comes after years of changes to Greyhound schedules in rural communities including the most recent cutbacks proposed that would eliminate all stops in Princeton and the Similkameen Valley.
Greyhound has also proposed cuts to five routes including Victoria to Nanaimo, Prince George to Prince Rupert, Prince George to Valemount, Prince George to Dawson Creek and Dawson Creek to Whitehorse.
The release states that ridership has dropped significantly since 2010 because of offerings by other inter-city transportation providers.
The Town of Princeton has already responded in writing to the BC Transportation Board urging it to deny Greyhound’s application to kill the local stops.
“My biggest concern is our good citizens that have to be in Vancouver, and that includes children, each month [for medical appointments] and have absolutely no way to get there,” said Armitage. “It goes without saying that we also have any number of people who have monthly appointments in Penticton.”
Through an agreement between the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen and B.C. Transit bus service is offered throughout the region. They system links Kelowna to most communities in the RDOS through a varied schedule. Depending on where a person gets on the system it could take more than a day to arrive in Kelowna because of schedule limitations. B.C. Transit receives local and provincial subsidies to operate.
“I know that the proposed route reductions will be a difficult change for affected passengers and communities, and we deeply regret having to issue this filing. The situation has come to a head, however, and despite a long-standing series of corrective measures and discussions with policy makers, the reality is that we can no longer operate the unsustainable routes, and we are proposing changes that will make other BC routes more viable,” Stuart Kendrick, senior vice-president of Greyhound Canada states in the press release.
Armitage said other players must come to the table.
“We the taxpayers pay millions per year for urban transit systems. Why should it just be another government downloading to the rural communities.”
In response to Greyhound Canada asking for a letter of support for its proposed rural fund solution, regional district directors requested an in-depth report on the state of bus transportation in the region. That information is expected in the New Year.