By Steve Lambert
THE CANADIAN PRESS
WINNIPEG-The end of Greyhound bus service across western Canada is the latest in a string of decisions that have left many rural and northern residents with few options for public transportation.
The southern Prairies lost Via Rail service in 1990, when a line that ran through Brandon, Man., Regina and Calgary was shut down.
Then there were Greyhound cuts, such as in 2012, when the bus company stopped operating on a number of roads including Highway 2 in Manitoba.
Now, Greyhound has announced it will end all its routes in the West, save for one between Vancouver and Seattle, at the end of October.
Rick Chrest, the mayor of Brandon, Man., says it’s a blow for people who don’t own vehicles because there is no rail service in many areas and access to passenger airlines is limited.
Chrest is hopeful smaller private operators will step in, but that didn’t happen after the 2012 cuts.
“This will take away yet another option for public transportation that certainly many people rely on,” Chrest said.
“We might be hopeful that some other aspect of the private sector may start stepping up and filling the void.”
Chrest pointed to a private firm that offers a shuttle bus that carries Brandon residents two hours east to the airport in Winnipeg.
Brandon has an airport, but the only major scheduled service is a daily WestJet run to Calgary.
Bus charter companies, which transport sports teams, might also find a niche in regular scheduled service, he said.
Greyhound currently services small communities across the sparsely populated Prairies. There are 46 stops alone during the 19-hour run from Winnipeg to Calgary _ places such as MacGregor, Man., Sinatula, Sask. and Bassano, Alta.
“It’s going to be quite a loss to a significant number of people,” Chrest said.
In the north, bus service is relied on by many First Nations residents who travel to bigger cities for medical care.
“It is already well documented that our citizens have to ride the bus for hours, some longer than 14 hours, in order to see a doctor. How will they get access to adequate health care now?” said Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said Monday he is hopeful other private firms will fill the Greyhound void, but said there will be no financial aid from the province.
“We think there are a lot of smart people who could do this, however … our government certainly won’t be in the business of being in business. We do not believe in subsidies.”