FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Greyhound Canada revealed that it is losing $35,000 every day providing service in B.C. at Thursday’s Passenger Transportation Board hearing into the company’s application to cease bus service to most of Northern B.C.
That number works out to $12.775 million per year, and the company said in its presentation at today’s hearing that it has lost roughly $70 million in the last six years. Greyhound Canada’s lawyer David Blair explained that the only reason the company has been able to serve rural and remote communities is by also maintaining licenses on more profitable routes.
“The notion of a regulated intercity bus system dates to the 1950’s and earlier. The idea originally was that there were certain routes that had a high passenger volume. Therefore, regulators would give those routes to carriers at the same time as giving lesser-travelled routes, and it would be a package deal. A carrier would be able to operate on city pairs that were very profitable and at the same time losing money on rural routes, but as a whole it was still a profitable enterprise.”
Greyhound Canada earlier this week said that it was advocating for the provincial government to create a Connecting Communities Fund that would allow for rural bus service to be subsidized, similar to bus service in larger urban areas.
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Chetwynd mayor Merlin Nichols and Fort St. John mayor Lori Ackerman were the first two speakers at today’s public hearing. Nichols said he wasn’t advocating in favour or against Greyhound, but did say he was advocating for those in rural communities such as his that don’t have alternative modes of transportation. Nichols explained that the regional economy of smaller communities is dependant on the connections provided by the intercity buses.
Mayor Ackerman also pointed out the economic benefits provided by Greyhound service to Northeast B.C., especially the company’s cargo service.
“This service provides cargo for many small communities and the businesses in those communities. Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of our economy, and they need to have the access to cargo delivery in order to thrive. While it may be a small auto store along the highway, the reality is if they cannot bring in parts for their customers, their customers will go elsewhere, and they will shut down. It may be one auto supplier, but looking at the entire route, it may be ten.”
The Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society’s Executive Director Amanda Trotter mentioned the societal impacts of Greyhound ceasing service to cities north and west of Prince George. Trotter explained the findings of a gender-based study that was done by the Society in 2014, which she said can contribute to violence against women. According to the study, Fort St. John has higher than provincial average rates of:
- teen pregnancies;
- rental prices;
- women not in the labour force that have children; and
- violent crime.
Trotter also mentioned that the younger population, higher ratio of men to women, and the disparity between the wages earned by men compared to women in the area can also contribute to violence against women. Trotter says that the Society’s low-income clients will be severely impacted by a lack of intercity bus service, especially those leaving abusive relationships that would not be safe staying in the Fort St. John area.
During his speech Peace River Regional District Chair Brad Sperling echoed Greyhound’s call for rural bus service to be subsidized, pointing out that BC Ferries and the inland ferries in the Kootenays operated by the Ministry of Transportation both receive provincial funding. “As much as we don’t like subsidies, I think its time,” said Sperling. “We deserve it.”