End of Line
Province demands action as Greyhound leaves western Canada.
Premier Rachel Notley is calling on the federal government to step up with transportation solutions in the wake of Greyhound’s surprise announcement that it will be cancelling all but one of its bus routes in Western Canada.
The Alberta government will do everything it can to assist rural communities left without vital transportation connections as a result of Greyhound’s pullout, Notley told reporters in Calgary on Tuesday.
She said the province is already talking to the federal government about how best to replace the services that will be lost when the bus company axes operations in October.
“At the end of the day, it goes across borders,” Notley said. “I would say the ability to access transportation around our country is a national issue.”
Greyhound Canada’s decision to pull out of Western Canada has sent shock waves through Alberta’s small and mid-sized communities, where the bus is sometimes the only form of public transportation available to residents travelling for medical appointments, shopping, or to visit family.
Women’s advocates have raised concerns that Greyhound’s exit could compromise the ability of victims of domestic violence to flee dangerous situations.
“This is a blow for lower income people who just need to move around and get places,” said Medicine Hat Mayor Ted Clugston. “I know when I was in university, I used the Greyhound to get to Calgary and back. I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t been around at the time.”
Greyhound, which cited a 41 per cent decline in ridership since 2010 as its reason for Monday’s announcement, has been slowly reducing service to rural Alberta for years as small-town populations dwindle and car ownership grows.
Vulcan Mayor Tom Grant said the bus used to come through his town twice a day, and local seniors would regularly ride it to Calgary or just to nearby High River. Now the bus stops in Vulcan just once, in the middle of the night.
“It’s not as convenient as it used to be,” Grant said. “But there are still some that use it. I think this is something that’s going to affect all small, rural communities.”
The Alberta government has long been concerned about dwindling transportation options in small communities — reinstating more bus services to rural communities was part of the NDP’S 2015 election platform.
In March, the government announced a pilot project aimed at connecting medium-sized cities with surrounding rural and smaller urban municipalities. Under the terms of the project, the City of Camrose will receive two grants worth almost $600,000 to establish a regular bus shuttle service between Camrose and Edmonton and to hire a regional transit co-ordinator who will oversee ride-sharing opportunities in the area.
Grande Prairie County will receive nearly $640,000 to connect Sexsmith, Clairmont, Wembley, Beaverlodge and Hythe with the City of Grande Prairie’s existing transit system, while the M.D. of Spirit River will get $200,000 to expand its existing van service between Spirit River, Rycroft and Grande Prairie.
In the wake of Greyhound’s exit, Notley said the government will continue to explore other ideas to address what she called a “fundamental issue around the basic right to transportation.”
There are many different transit options that, with some government support, could help rural communities, said Rural Municipalities of Alberta president Al Kemmere.
“Even a rural form of Uber, or a stronger rural taxi program or something like that may be something that can be supported somehow by the provincial government,” he said.
Even within rural communities, however, not everyone believes government intervention is the solution.
“If the Greyhounds and Red Arrows of the world don’t think it’s viable, it’s pretty hard for me to say taxpayer dollars should go toward it,” said Grant, the Vulcan mayor. “Unfortunately, I think it’s just a sign of the times for a lot of our smaller communities with declining populations.”
With files from James Wood
Greyhound Canada has announced they will be shutting down the transit depot in Calgary on Monday July 9, 2018.