Last week, Greyhound announced it was pulling out of Western Canada, noting they had a 41 per cent decline in ridership, persistent competition from subsidized national and inter-regional passenger transportation services, the growth of low-cost airlines, regulatory constraints and the continued growth of car ownership.
If all of this was truly the case, Greyhound driving away from the west wouldn’t be news. Afterall with national and inter-regional passenger transportation services, low-cost airlines and increased car ownership, why would we need what’s at best a monopolized mediocre bus service.
Most of these sound like nonsense: if you live in 100 Mile House and don’t own a car, you’re pretty much stuck (save for a bus to Williams Lake three times a week funded for health reasons). There’s no national or inter-regional passenger transportation service that competes with Greyhound here.
Low-cost airlines meanwhile are still quite sparse and largely only fly in and out of unpopular destinations, meaning that those looking to use them to save money are probably using a car to access them.
Vehicle registrations between 2013 and 2017 increased from 31.7 million in 2013 to 34.3 million, but simultaneously the population grew from 35.1 million to 36.7 million and the increase may well be at the very least partially due to families that already owned vehicles acquiring more vehicles as opposed to it being purely non-car owners acquiring cars. In any case, it’s hardly dramatic.
On the flip side of the coin, for weeks while driving north out of 100 Mile House, there’s been a steady supply of hitchhikers, some of them tourists while others were going to look for work up north. Additionally, with our aging demographics, we undoubtedly have more senior residents who can’t drive anymore.
Just this week my wife dropped visitors off at the Greyhound and I’ve used Greyhound myself on a rare occasion.
There’s very little doubt in my mind, that there’s a substantial contingent in 100 Mile House who don’t own a car but still need to get around. Furthermore, it’s hard to believe 100 Mile would be unique in this. Yet, the decline in ridership seems hardly surprising.
Despite Greyhound being the only real choice, it’s hardly a popular one. If nothing else, it’s anything but cheap. A ticket from 100 Mile House to Prince George leaving today and returning on Sunday costs $130. This is an obscene amount of money, especially considering that those who don’t have a car and need to take the Greyhound, probably don’t have as much disposable income. If I drive, I can almost do it on one tank of gas (about $50). For comparison, a trip on the same days with Greyhound between New York and Washington costs $50.
Let’s hope the government (provincial or federal) doesn’t dump a bunch of money into saving Greyhound in the west. Surely we must be able to provide actually affordable transport to car-less residents if government money gets involved.