By Keith Lacey
Special to the Chronicle
While its passenger bus service will continue in Osoyoos, Greyhound Canada recently announced that it would be eliminating service to numerous communities in southern B.C., including Keremeos, Manning Park, Hedley and Princeton.
Last fall, Greyhound Canada applied to the British Columbia Passenger Transportation Board requesting the iconic passenger bus company be allowed to eliminate numerous routes across the province, with the majority of them taking place in northern B.C. and many in the southern Interior.
Greyhound cited decreased ridership and dwindling revenues from smaller communities in its application to the transportation board.
“The biggest change for the Okanagan was the application to come off of Highway 3,” said Stuart Kendrick, senior vice president of Greyhound Canada.
Stops along Highway 3, including Keremeos, Hedley, Princeton and Manning Park will be abandoned as of June 1, when Greyhound ceases service along that route.
People traveling from Kelowna to Hope and then onward towards the Lower Mainland and Vancouver will travel via Highway 5 and Highway 97C instead.
“The reason is the ridership levels have been at such a low level over the last several years,” said Kendrick. “We’ve made several applications over the years to reduce frequency along that route. Unfortunately, this location just isn’t viable long-term, and hasn’t been for a while.”
Kendrick said he regrets the need to eliminate service along the Hope-Princeton Highway.
It’s important for the residents of these communities to talk to their municipal governments and advocate for the provincial government to provide some long-term funding for Northern B.C. and the Interior, said Kendrick.
“Any private carrier cannot sustain the ridership levels that we’re seeing and remain viable. It needs some sort of assistance.”
Greyhound Canada has also received approval to reduce the minimum frequency required for several routes in the Okanagan, including from Kamloops to Kelowna, Kelowna to Penticton, Vancouver to Osoyoos and Kelowna to the Alberta border.
“That application was to allow us some flexibility if we needed to reduce the current frequency that we operate,” said Kendrick. “Hopefully we don’t have to.”
The minimum number of required trips along those routes has been reduced to four per week, two trips each way, he said.
Any changes to the frequency of those routes will require 14 days notice.
Between Kamloops and Kelowna, several stops are also being eliminated, including Oyama, Monte Lake, Westwold and Falkland.
Between Kelowna and the Alberta border, Beaverdell is being eliminated as a stop.
B.C. transportation minister Claire Trevena said Greyhound’s decision to eliminate and reduce service along rural routes will leave people vulnerable, particularly Indigenous communities, women, seniors, children and those living with disabilities.
“In the coming weeks, I will be speaking to local elected officials, First Nations and others affected by Greyhound’s upcoming service changes, so we can deliver long-term solutions that work for everyone,” she said.
Greyhound said the affected routes have had a 51 per cent drop in ridership since 2010.
Greyhound had proposed that the provincial government create a “connecting communities fund,” for another private bus company that might be interested.
The fund proposes to create a privatized rural bus service for participating municipalities.
The Ministry of Transportation hasn’t ruled out that request, but indicated it would wait for the transportation board’s decision on Greyhound’s proposed cuts before making any decision.
A full list of the route changes announced by Greyhound on Wednesday can be found here.