Regional transit expansion will have to be relied on to off-set the further loss of Greyhound bus service to Lake Country.
Mayor James Baker says Greyhound offered some means of convenience for local residents to travel up and down the valley or to other regions of the province, a service however that began eroding more than five years ago with the cancellation of the Winfield stop.
Baker compared the waning popularity of buses to rail travel as it was abandoned in changing times.
“Greyhound seems to be abandoning most of its inter-municipal stops along the main Highway 97. We had already seen the Winfield stop cut out and the same thing happened with Peachland,” Baker said.
Earlier this week Greyhound acted on approval from the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board to reduce service on two trips per week in each direction out of Kelowna. The routes include between Kelowna and Penticton, Kamloops, Vancouver and the Alberta border.
On the route between Kelowna and Kamloops, Greyhound will also cut what is called “point-of-service” stops in Oyama, Falkland, Westwold and Monte Lake.
Long-time Oyama resident and orchardist Allan Gatzke said the Greyhound stop in Oyama was reliant on pre-arranged booking for pickup.
“I’m not sure how eliminating the Oyama stop will save them any money or alter the schedule as it would bypass us anyway unless booked for a stop in advance,” Gatzke said.
For Oyama, Gatzke said the loss of Greyhound is a further impact on the rural community that already is under-serviced for transit, such as having no bus service on the east side of Wood Lake.
“The biggest impact will probably be on the seasonal orchard workers who relied on the Greyhound service to travel outside of Lake Country,” Gatzke said.
“But for anyone in Oyama who had to rely on the Greyhound service, they are kind of screwed now.”
Baker also acknowledged the impact felt by seasonal workers “to get up and down the valley.”
“There is some convenience that is lost there,” he said, reiterating that regional transit will have to address the needs of local residents to access Kelowna and Vernon to hook up with other Greyhound routes.
Rene Talbot, electoral area D director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, shared Gatzke’s sentiments that the service cutback will impact Falkland residents without transportation of their own needing to get to Kamloops or Vernon.
“It just seems to be a bit of cash grab for Greyhound in they only want the high revenue stops,” Talbot said.
He said the reduction in Greyhound service has been gradual, starting with the stoppage of package delivery and this is now the last straw.
“There was one person talking about starting a regional bus service between Falkland and Westwold a few years back but that ran into issues with the Armstrong tax service license territorial rights to Falkland, even though we never see them here anyways,” Talbot said.
“That idea might start to gain some traction again. Greyhound was an important service fixture for all these small communities across the Interior and now that seems to be disappearing.”