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Dog Gone

Greyhound service suspension leaves much of rural Canada stranded

Oct 05, 2018

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Greyhound service suspension leaves much of rural Canada stranded

Canadians felt like they''d been ditched at the side of the road when Greyhound Canada announced this summer it would suspend all routes servicing western Canada.

Greyhound also suspended its freight services, meaning the company will no longer transport packages to rural locations. The move leaves millions of people without access to a convenient and reliable method of inter-city travel. Greyhound said the changes, which take effect in late October, were due to falling ridership and profits.

But the decision made clear the importance of rural transportation for Canadians who live in far flung locations.

"Access to a cost-efficient and reliable method of public transportation is crucial for rural Albertans. Inter-city bus service helps get people to the places they need to go, like medical appointments and family visits," said AUPE Vice-President Rod Feland. "Those of us who live in rural Alberta should not be cut off from the services we rely on most, but without reliable transportation, that could easily become a scary reality."

Last year, the conservative Saskatchewan Party introduced a budget that eliminated that province''s public rural bus service, the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, leaving seniors and other rural residents in the lurch. In that case, the province also blamed a lack of profits. But cancelling the service cost more than 200 people their jobs and left residents without a way of getting around or sending and receiving important deliveries, since the service had transported both people and packages.

Politicians insisted the private sector would fill the void, with routes provided by large companies such as Greyhound. But one year later, that strategy has clearly failed.

"These kinds of bus services are not a luxury. They are, in some cases, a matter of life or death importance and for that reason should be considered a valuable public service. It''s about the people the service is helping, not about profits," added Feland. "Maintaining connections between our communities helps maintain our social fabric, and inter-city bus service keeps those connections alive."

Since the Greyhound cancellation, some governments have stepped forward. In Alberta, a rural transportation pilot program had already been developed to provide service between Edmonton and Camrose, along with areas surrounding Grande Prairie. The program was expanded to serve more than 700,000 Albertans in the Red Deer, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge regions in the weeks following the Greyhound pullout, and more routes are being planned.

Western premiers have also come together to call on the federal government to treat rural transportation as a national issue and work to provide temporary service so affected areas can develop alternative plans.

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