B.C. allows Greyhound to cancel northern bus services, including Highway of Tears
Less than a year after B.C. began 3-day-a-week transit on route notorious for missing Indigenous women, firm OK'd to cancel its northern services as transport minister warns it'll 'leave people vulnerable'
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Less than a year after the B.C. began transit service along its northern Highway 16 — dubbed the "Highway of Tears" because dozens of Indigenous women have vanished from it — Greyhound has been permitted to cancel all its services along that route and five others in the north.
The province's Passenger Transportation Board, which oversees private transportation services and which routes are granted permits, ruled Wednesday that Texas-based Greyhound can stop serving six longtime northern routes, including Highway 16, and cut service on three others.
Greyhound had requested the cancellations, arguing the routes were not economically viable.
"Greyhound's decision to cut service in northern and interior British Columbia is unfortunate," said transport minister Claire Trevena in a statement. "People rely on Greyhound's long-haul, inter-city bus service to get to and from major cities.
"Eliminating and reducing service along rural and remote routes will leave people vulnerable, particularly Indigenous communities, women, seniors, children and those living with disabilities."
But the PTB agreed that Greyhound could stop serving its two Highway 16 routes from Prince Rupert to Prince George, and from Prince George to the Alberta border.
It also authorized cancelling service from Highway 16 south to Vancouver, from Prince George to Fort St. James, Prince George to Dawson Creek, Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson, and Fort Nelson north to the Yukon border.
Greyhound's schedules will also be reduced from the Alberta border to Vancouver, Prince George to Vancouver, and Alberta to Dawson Creek.
The three-member PTB panel's licence amendment decision Wednesday also allowed the company to stop servicing a number of stops along 10 of its existing routes.
Greyhound Canada Transportation has operated between B.C. cities since 1929.
"Greyhound recognizes that passengers and communities will be negatively affected if its application for service eliminations and reductions is approved," the PTB ruling noted, "and it expresses regret and concern for those who may be impacted."
The company has applied six times since 2004 to cut services in B.C., and was approved by the PTB every time "based on efforts to reverse the company’s financial losses and improve the carrier’s economic viability," the board stated.
"In every case, the Board approved the applications, based on efforts to reverse the company’s financial losses and improve the carrier’s economic viability," the panel wrote. "… Greyhound indicates that its current financial state is 'critical and urgent' and immediate steps are necessary to ensure its long term financial health."
The company told the board it had lost $12.9 million in the past year alone in B.C., and $70 million in the last six years.
At stake, the PTB said, was whether Greyhound could continue to offer any inter-city services in the province at all — unless it was allowed to cut some routes. But in order to qualify for the right to offer its services, Greyhound's "special authorization" licence "includes terms and conditions with which Greyhound must comply," the PTB added in its ruling.
"Primarily, the terms and conditions are minimum route frequencies and route points." It requires permission to cut back any of those.
The decision also allows Greyhound to end service between the University of B.C. and Whistler, and between Victoria and Nanaimo and Victoria and Vancouver.
According to its ruling, the PTB said it "considers what, if any, level of service meets the public need," including whether "ridership on a route demonstrates sufficient public demand or need for the route and are there any transportation alternatives available."
After years of calls from missing and murdered Indigenous women's advocates, the province started a public bus service along Highway 16 last summer three times a week, in addition to Greyhound's existing schedule.
Many of the disappeared women were reportedly hitchhiking along the highway when they vanished, and increasing transit service was proposed as a remedy to ensure women's safety.
Trevena said she will now speak to municipal officials and First Nations affected by the changes "so we can deliver long-term solutions that work for everyone," she stated.
"It is vital that people throughout the province have access to safe, reliable and affordable transportation."