By Vanessa Broadbent
I have never ridden a Greyhound bus, but I’ve been in an Uber.
I was in San Francisco and tried it out, partly because I was curious what the service was all about but mostly because it was convenient.
It was easy: I installed the app on my phone, requested a ride, said ride showed up within minutes and the app automatically charged the pre-approved (and surprisingly cheap) cost to my credit card.
With Greyhound Canada’s recent announcement that it’s cutting out every route it has in Western Canada at the end of October, riders are left wondering how they’ll get from town to town within the country.
Expectedly, the response has been negative.
Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson said the provincial NDP government needs to step up and fill the gap.
Mayor Ron Hovanes shared a similar opinion: if another private company doesn’t spring up, it should be the province’s responsibility.
Another private company stepping in is unlikely; who wants to take on what Greyhound Canada called a “challenging transportation environment?”
While I agree that the province should prioritize maintaining adequate transportation for all British Columbians, not just those in urban areas, I’m not sure if another bus running is the answer – clearly people aren’t taking them often enough to generate a profit and investing tax dollars into an obviously financially unstable industry doesn’t seem practical.
Before a province-run or subsidized transportation system is implemented, allowing rideshare programs needs to be a priority.
Some have found a sort of loop-hole in the province’s regulations and Vancouver-based company Poparide could see a spike in interest with Greyhound’s cuts.
The ridesharing program allows drivers to post routes they’ll be taking and accept bookings. Passengers can search for the route they plan to take and request a ride.
The difference between Poparide and Uber is that Poparide’s drivers don’t earn an income. Instead, they accept donations for gas and other associated costs.
This is legal under B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Act which allows “volunteer drivers” to accept money, as long as it only covers operating costs, which the act defines as gas, tolls, fares, insurance and maintenance.
The service is similar to Airbnb in that users can screen their hosts. Users have profiles, complete with photos and feedback from other passengers, which they can read to ease any safety concerns.
As someone who loves long drives and long talks with strangers, helping someone get where they need by taking along a few extra passengers on my next out of town trip, sounds perfect.
However, being able to make an income instead of just a gas contribution could inspire more drivers to invite others along on their trips, increasing the amount of available rides across the province.
Who knows, there may even end up being more routes than Greyhound is currently offering in its last few months.
Instead of fighting for more tax dollars to be spent on a service that while necessary, is clearly not in high demand for all British Columbians, I’d like to see our local politicians first advocate for their people to be able to step in.