A photo of the section of building at 4011 Hwy 16 that used to house the Greyhound terminal for Smithers and is proposed for redevelopment as a car wash. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

A photo of the section of building at 4011 Hwy 16 that used to house the Greyhound terminal for Smithers and is proposed for redevelopment as a car wash. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Closure of bus depots on Vancouver Island part of industry-wide struggle: CEO

Closure of bus depots on Vancouver Island is part of a wider decline in services across Canada

A member of the Ahousaht First Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island says the decline in bus service in the province is wearing on her.

Maryanne Titian, 69, says she and her husband John both have diabetes, and he is also waiting on a kidney transplant while she has suffered mild heart attacks.

The couple uses buses to get to medical appointments at least once a month that are hours away.

Since the closure of several bus depots on Vancouver Island this year, they are often left waiting outside in poor weather conditions for hours.

“It’s hard,” Titian said. ”My husband and I are both not feeling well, we get sick really easy.”

“This time of year, it’s windy, it’s raining, it’s snowing in some places,” she said.

The closure of bus depots on Vancouver Island is part of a wider decline in services across Canada that are leaving some vulnerable people at risk.

The largest shift came in 2018, when Greyhound Canada announced it was cancelling service in most of Western Canada, citing plunging demand.

The provincial government stepped in to fill some of the gaps in northern British Columbia, including along the so-called Highway of Tears between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

The service BC Bus North, operated by Pacific Western Transportation, now provides transportation along the route where at least 18 women have gone missing or have been murdered, several of whom were last seen hitchhiking. It also serves Valemount, Dawson Creek, Fort. St. John and Fort Nelson.

A hodgepodge of other companies also entered the void left by Greyhound in parts of Western Canada and northern Ontario but haven’t matched the service provided by Greyhound.

While Greyhound announced it was pulling out of the Island months before the rest of Western Canada, its disappearance still has ripple effects on the local bus businesses, the CEO of one company said.

John Wilson of Wilson Group, which operates much of Vancouver Island’s bus services through its companies Wilson’s Transportation and Tofino Bus, said Greyhound played a key role in bringing passengers and freight from across the country.

“That connectivity across the country has stopped,” Wilson said, adding that apart from internal freight services, the company now almost entirely relies on passenger revenue.

Wilson Group is partnering with companies like Ebus, which has taken up and added stops along Greyhound’s Kelowna-Kamloops route, to try to reconnect the Interior with Vancouver and Vancouver Island, but gaps still remain, he said.

Ride sharing services and the consumer’s own decisions to drive are also affecting the bottom line, he said.

To compensate for declining demand, Wilson closed five bus depots this year in Port Alberni, Courtenay, Tofino, Parksville and Port Hardy, he said.

“Unfortunately, we had to make some tough decisions around closing some stations,” Wilson said.

Passengers are now primarily picked up at the curbside, although Wilson said the company is in discussions with some local businesses to allow passengers to wait inside.

Bus companies across North America are facing similar challenges, he said, and eliminating bricks and mortar operations are one of the ways they can reduce overhead without cutting routes.

While online bookings may not be accessible to many seniors or individuals without credit cards, between 80 and 85 per cent of passengers now book online, reducing the need for ticketing agents, he said.

Wilson said the company’s call centre remains open and he encouraged passengers experiencing barriers to reach out directly, adding the company will do its best to accommodate them.

“We definitely think it’s a small minority,” he said. “At the same time, they need to be looked after and we want to look after them. We’re doing the best we can to maintain the service levels as far as our schedules are concerned by reducing our overhead.

But the other option is to reduce runs, which hurts people even more, I think.”

Back in the Interior, the province agreed to provide the BC Bus North service on an interim basis and federal funding covering half the costs expires at the end of March 2021. BC Transit led a competitive procurement process for service providers on the current routes and the request for proposals closed in August.

The Ministry of Transportation said in a statement that the contract is being finalized and additional information will be available in the coming weeks.

There will be no disruption to the current BC Bus North service, it said.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Nanaimo is looking at spending another $400,000 on security throughout downtown in 2021, with a focus on overnight security. (Stock photo)
City of Nanaimo looks at increasing downtown security

Council members will consider $400,000 increase in 2021, $1.45 million in 2022

‘Nanaimo’ will be spelled out in five-foot-tall letters upon a slab of concrete overlooking Swy-a-Lana Lagoon at Maffeo Sutton Park. (Greg Sakaki/The News Bulletin)
Five-foot-tall letters spelling out ‘Nanaimo’ coming to Maffeo Sutton Park

$50,000-project expected to be installed by the end of April

Nanaimo RCMP hope the public can help find a 37-year-old man who was last seen early Tuesday, April 13. (Photo submitted)
RCMP searching for missing Nanaimo man

Friends, family of Robert William Sport, 37, extremely concerned for his safety and well-being

Guy Black passed through Nanaimo on Tuesday, April 13, on a 300-kilometre walk from Tofino to Langley to commemorate the contribution Canadian troops made in the Korean War battle of Kapyon in April 1951. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Man’s 300-kilometre walk commemorates Korean War battle

Guy Black walking from Tofino to Langley to honour veterans

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees on highway near Ladysmith

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island’s Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

A Nanaimo man will serve nine months in jail for the sexual assault of a young girl he admitted to having committed more than 40 years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo man sentenced for sexually abusing girl more than 40 years ago

Man, now 71, gets nine-month sentence for abuse of friend’s daughter

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo teen arrested a day after allegedly assaulting and bullying victim

Teen taken into custody after wielding weapon and threatening driver at scene of car crash

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photo courtesy Ella Smiley)
Orcas near the beach thrill whale watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

RCMP on scene yesterday at the altercation at the trailer park. (Submitted photo)
Violent altercation at Port Hardy trailer park sends one to hospital

Police say man confronted another over airsoft shooting, then was attacked with a weapon

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Most Read