The wheels on the Greyhound bus will no longer be rolling through B.C. at the end of October.
Greyhound Canada surprised and shocked many on July 10 when the company announced cuts to all but one service between Vancouver and Seattle.
Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson says the band has two reserves, one in Chase and the other in Salmon Arm, and that travel options were already limited.
“Our people rely on public transportation,” she says, noting the band’s population of approximately 657 people living on or off reserve will have even more difficulty getting around as many of them are unable to own or maintain their own vehicles. “This puts our members into a real troublesome way to get to larger centres for medical attention, education, employment, job searches, counselling or shopping.”
Also of major concern is the way the lack of service will prevent people from getting to or from funerals, weddings and other important life events.
“How do we get our members around to meet those critical needs?” she asks, concerned that the lack of service will put some members at risk as they look for alternatives, including women and young children turning to hitchhiking.
“With the highway widening, it is going to have to be even more important, it has to be more of a priority,” she says, annoyed that Greyhound announced the end of service to B.C. without prior discussion.
Over at the District of Chase office, chief administrative officer Joni Heinrich says that while there is excellent medical attention available in the community, the lack of Greyhound bus service will limit travel to Kamloops for more complex care to one Handy Dart bus on Fridays.
“This is definitely going to have a negative impact,” she says, noting Chase-to-Vancouver or Chase-to-Calgary are very busy routes. “I often see people waiting for the bus and lots of parcels and stuff get dropped off here.”
Like Wilson, Heinrich is hoping other carriers might step up to serve some of the routes, at least between Salmon Arm, Chase and Kamloops.
Meanwhile, 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.”