A photo of the section of building at 4011 Hwy 16 that used to house the Greyhound terminal for Smithers and is proposed for redevelopment as a car wash. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Closure of bus depots on Vancouver Island part of industry-wide struggle: CEO

Closure of bus depots on Vancouver Island is part of a wider decline in services across Canada

A member of the Ahousaht First Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island says the decline in bus service in the province is wearing on her.

Maryanne Titian, 69, says she and her husband John both have diabetes, and he is also waiting on a kidney transplant while she has suffered mild heart attacks.

The couple uses buses to get to medical appointments at least once a month that are hours away.

Since the closure of several bus depots on Vancouver Island this year, they are often left waiting outside in poor weather conditions for hours.

“It’s hard,” Titian said. ”My husband and I are both not feeling well, we get sick really easy.”

“This time of year, it’s windy, it’s raining, it’s snowing in some places,” she said.

The closure of bus depots on Vancouver Island is part of a wider decline in services across Canada that are leaving some vulnerable people at risk.

The largest shift came in 2018, when Greyhound Canada announced it was cancelling service in most of Western Canada, citing plunging demand.

The provincial government stepped in to fill some of the gaps in northern British Columbia, including along the so-called Highway of Tears between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

The service BC Bus North, operated by Pacific Western Transportation, now provides transportation along the route where at least 18 women have gone missing or have been murdered, several of whom were last seen hitchhiking. It also serves Valemount, Dawson Creek, Fort. St. John and Fort Nelson.

A hodgepodge of other companies also entered the void left by Greyhound in parts of Western Canada and northern Ontario but haven’t matched the service provided by Greyhound.

While Greyhound announced it was pulling out of the Island months before the rest of Western Canada, its disappearance still has ripple effects on the local bus businesses, the CEO of one company said.

John Wilson of Wilson Group, which operates much of Vancouver Island’s bus services through its companies Wilson’s Transportation and Tofino Bus, said Greyhound played a key role in bringing passengers and freight from across the country.

“That connectivity across the country has stopped,” Wilson said, adding that apart from internal freight services, the company now almost entirely relies on passenger revenue.

Wilson Group is partnering with companies like Ebus, which has taken up and added stops along Greyhound’s Kelowna-Kamloops route, to try to reconnect the Interior with Vancouver and Vancouver Island, but gaps still remain, he said.

Ride sharing services and the consumer’s own decisions to drive are also affecting the bottom line, he said.

To compensate for declining demand, Wilson closed five bus depots this year in Port Alberni, Courtenay, Tofino, Parksville and Port Hardy, he said.

“Unfortunately, we had to make some tough decisions around closing some stations,” Wilson said.

Passengers are now primarily picked up at the curbside, although Wilson said the company is in discussions with some local businesses to allow passengers to wait inside.

Bus companies across North America are facing similar challenges, he said, and eliminating bricks and mortar operations are one of the ways they can reduce overhead without cutting routes.

While online bookings may not be accessible to many seniors or individuals without credit cards, between 80 and 85 per cent of passengers now book online, reducing the need for ticketing agents, he said.

Wilson said the company’s call centre remains open and he encouraged passengers experiencing barriers to reach out directly, adding the company will do its best to accommodate them.

“We definitely think it’s a small minority,” he said. “At the same time, they need to be looked after and we want to look after them. We’re doing the best we can to maintain the service levels as far as our schedules are concerned by reducing our overhead.

But the other option is to reduce runs, which hurts people even more, I think.”

Back in the Interior, the province agreed to provide the BC Bus North service on an interim basis and federal funding covering half the costs expires at the end of March 2021. BC Transit led a competitive procurement process for service providers on the current routes and the request for proposals closed in August.

The Ministry of Transportation said in a statement that the contract is being finalized and additional information will be available in the coming weeks.

There will be no disruption to the current BC Bus North service, it said.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Falling oak tree causes minor damage to Langford home

Tree damages garden and gutters of home on Lindsay Place

Residents to start moving into first of 100 new affordable homes in Langford

Construction underway on second phase of affordable Indigenous housing project in Langford

Saanich police looking to identify suspect in Brydon Park assault

Victim confronted suspect about the way he was treating his dog

The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Gender pay gap is incentivizing fathers to work while mothers watch children, a new B.C. study has found

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 7

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Would you get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it is available?

With the number of positive COVID-19 tests skyrocketing across much of the… Continue reading

Ex-Okanagan Mountie forfeits 20 days’ pay after sexual misconduct review

A former Vernon RCMP constable made sexual comments, grabbed genitals of male officer in two incidents 10 years ago

Man found dead on Okanagan trail identified as Hollywood actor

GoFundMe campaign launched for man found dead at summit of Spion Kop

3 people dead in Prince George motel fire

Fire personnel believe the blaze was suspicious although investigation in early stages

B.C. sets terms to review police, mental health, race relations

MLAs to recommend Police Act changes by May 2021

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Ghost gear accounts for up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight

Most Read