If not Greyhound, it’s time to consider all options

Weekly editorial for the 100 Mile Free Press

It’s just over a month until Greyhound pulls out of Western Canada. There’s the rare replacement service here or there, such as Silver City Stagelines looking to run a passenger service from Nelson to Kelowna six days a week. However, there has been no grand-replacement announcement.

At the Union of B.C. Municipalities, delegates voted in favour of a resolution asking the provincial and federal governments to establish a new intercommunity transportation service in B.C. ahead of Greyhound’s withdrawal.

Furthermore, Lillooet Mayor Marg Lampman has called for a restoration of rail service between North Vancouver and Prince George. That service was ended in 2002 as it was supposedly losing $10 million a year.

We’ve also had readers impress upon us the importance of Greyhound, adding that subsidizing it has surely got to be the most affordable solution. In the short term, it’s hard to believe that anything outside of subsidizing Greyhound would be cheaper. However, you have to wonder how long that would be the case. Especially, if Greyhound were to come back asking for more over time. Additionally, subsidizing a for-profit company sets somewhat of a bad precedent.

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Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta, who drove for Greyhound for more than 30 years, called executives “dinosaurs,” adding that “Management of the company didn’t stay current, wasn’t up to date with modern trends. They used to pay for the whole operation with revenue from the freight they hauled,” in an interview on CKNW in mid-July.

If the past is anything to go by, we’ll shortly see a fleet upgrade announcement by BC Transit, followed by a replacement announcement mere days before the last Greyhound trip; at least, that’s what happened when Greyhound pulled their service out of northern B.C. at the end of May. However, the ministry also said that B.C. Bus North was B.C.’s interim solution while the province works to develop a long-term solution.

When it comes to long-term solutions if, as it looks right now, the provincial and federal governments aren’t willing to subsidize Greyhound, it’s time to look at all possible solutions, not just bringing back a replacement bus service or the train we used to have. Both would serve as a replacement for Greyhound, but not that much beyond that.

For years, rural areas have lagged behind in terms of economic growth, housing prices in the major centres have gotten extreme and rural areas struggle with young people leaving for universities in the big centres (creating a number of problems, such as a lack of young volunteers).

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A major public transportation network, such as exists in Japan or like California is building right now, would have the potential to deal with most or all of these problems more effectively than anything that’s currently being tried: the speculation tax only provided a temporary slow down, new natural resource developments have been plagued by all sorts of challenges, bringing university-level education to rural areas has had limited success, bringing medical care to rural seniors has had limited success and a major public transportation system would do more to fight climate change than stopping the Trans Mountain pipeline or the carbon tax ever will. Sure B.C. doesn’t have quite as high of a population, but Canada (according to the World Bank) does have one of the highest population growth rates among all developed countries (i.e. Canada was at a growth rate of 1.2 compared to the U.K. at 0.6).

It could well be way out of reach, but with Greyhound driving away from Western Canada, surely now would be a great time to consider all the options. It certainly seems like a good opportunity to plan for the future and not just have a knee-jerk reaction.

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