The BC Passenger Transportation Board (BCPTB) has approved route reductions for Greyhound bus service to Fort St. James.
The reductions will go into effect after a 14-day public notification period once the company posts the new schedule on their website – currently estimated to come into effect in three to four weeks. The changes will see the number of trips for Fort St. James to and from Prince George reduced substantially from six per week to one per week.
The tentative schedule so far is for a 9 a.m. departure to Prince George on Friday with a return to Fort St. James departing at 4 p.m., according to Grant Odsen, regional manager for passenger service for Greyhound in B.C..
While there will still be more frequent trips between Vanderhoof and Prince George, this route will also see reductions along Highway 16, going from a minimum of 22 trips per week to 14, which will still provide one daily trip in both directions between Prince George and Prince Rupert.
Odsen said this could provide an opportunity for small business start-ups in Fort St. James or Vanderhoof to connect to the more frequent service out of Vanderhoof.
“It might be a good business opportunity for somebody in the community,” said Odsen. He said this type of start-up has taken place in parts of Alberta where route reductions took place over a year ago.
“There’s been a number of small local carriers who’ve stepped up to fill the void,” siad Odsen.
He also said the freight service will be maintained, at least once an agent is found to operate the outlet, and until then it will continue to go through Vanderhoof.
Greyhound, in their application to the board, cited higher costs for fuel and maintenance, reduced ridership, inflexible regulations for market adjustment and unregulated competition from the Northern Health Authority as reasons for their need to reduce service.
Northern Health said their NH Connections bus service requires forms to verify medical appointments. However, Greyhound did not agree this is always being done and said because the service is subsidized, it is competition for their service and has an impact on ridership.
Greyhound has been approved to reduce 15 routes in total across the province well as to eliminate the route between Victoria and Mt. Washington.
The company expects the reductions to reduce their costs by approximately $6.75 million.
The Transportation Board said it considered more than 200 submissions of comment on the route reductions from the comment period, even accepting some late submissions.
While concerns were raised over the reduction of services along Highway 16 and 27 as increasing safety risks associated with hitchhiking, Greyhound’s response to this concern included the statement “(Greyhound) can no longer be all things to all people. It is an inter-city bus company, not an inter-community transit service and it is simply impossible for (Grehound) to design an inter-city bus network that will provide the connectivity, schedule frequency and times desired by each of its prospective bus riders.”
“Little weight should be given to the submissions from local and regional
governments that bus service should be maintained in their areas even if (Greyhound) is losing money. These objections do not establish that any public need for bus service asserted in the submissions can be operated profitably by (Greyhound).”