City council howling at Greyhound
Kamloops city councillors have harsh words for Greyhound Canada in the wake of another round of potential service cuts for the city and surrounding communities.
The bus line has applied to the provincial passenger board to reduce its minimum route frequency across the province, citing “unsustainable” losses of about $14 million in B.C.
While Kamloops would lose a few of its daily departures — the number of buses leaving for Vancouver and Alberta would fall from a minimum of 56 to 42 per week, for example — Mayor Peter Milobar said he’s more concerned for people living in smaller, regional communities.
If Greyhound’s application is successful, the community of Clearwater is set to lose one of its two daily stops and it’s not clear if it will be the afternoon or 2 a.m. departure that remains.
“It wasn’t that long ago that they actually reduced the routes down,” Miobar said.
“It seems like Greyhound is trying to get down to the point where it’s a package-delivery service that happens to pick up people when it’s not inconvenient for the people driving freight around the province.”
Milobar also criticized the time period the bus line had allowed for public comment.
The submission period closed on Wednesday, Oct. 17, one day after council had its first chance to discuss the route change.
Coun. Marg Spina said she’s concerned about the effect the service cut could have on seniors who no longer drive.
Spina argued the bus line shouldn’t be allowed to operate without competition as it does in the province if it’s not going to run adequate routes.
“They have the monopoly. If they can’t do a good job of it, I say open it up and let the market settle it that way.”
Coun. Pat Wallace said she had little sympathy for the bus line.
“I think we should write a very strong letter of disenchantment,” she said.
“We don’t know their economics and it’s probably not our business,” Wallace said.
“But, I can tell you the few times I’ve gone up there to send something, they’re unloading a tremendous amount of freight — and that’s money.”
While council voted unanimously to send a letter of displeasure to Greyhound Canada, councillors Tina Lange and Arjun Singh were not entirely comfortable telling a private business how to operate.
“If they are running empty buses or buses that are not full to a decent capacity, what will happen is the cost of a bus ticket will increase,” Lange said, noting it could make it more difficult for low-income people to access the bus service.
Singh wanted council’s letter to include some positive ideas for the bus line.
“I really do think they have an economic problem right now that needs to be solved,” he said.
However, Milobar said it wasn’t council’s job to fix Greyhound’s business model, but to “make a very clear point that we’re not happy not just for Kamloops, but for people in outlying communities coming into Kamloops.”
On Sunday, Oct. 14, 11 11 workers in the Greyhound dispatch office in Kamloops worked their final shifts as the company has moved its fleet-dispatch operation to its Burlington, Ont., location.
Maureen Richmond, director of media relations for the bus company, said combining the two dispatch offices is a business move to ensure efficiencies.
She explained the staff involved are the people tasked with keeping track of the buses and ensuring they leave and arrive at designated times.
The change will not impact the ticket operations at the depot on Laval Crescent.