Intercity public transportation is an essential service for many, but Greyhound Canada is threatening to cut it off for people who don’t live in adequately profitable jurisdictions, unless taxpayers come up with a $15- to $20-million bailout.
Manitoba is to lose rural service in October, northwestern Ontario in December. Potentially next on for the chop: Alberta; British Columbia; Saskatchewan; and the Northwest and Yukon Territories.
Some have expressed scepticism about Greyhound’s financial straits, pointing to the company’s snazzy new terminal at Winnipeg International Airport. In return for permission to operate a monopoly on profitable urban routes, provincial governments require Greyhound to serve money-losing rural routes. The former used to compensate for the latter, but now Greyhound complains their lunch is being eaten by discount airlines and the train.
Translation: In places where people have a choice, they don’t choose the bus, because the bus, frankly, sucks.
When I have a choice, I take the train. The bus is slower, cramped, not conspicuously cheaper, and customer service? Well, I tend to side with the doubters of Greyhound’s tales of woe, partially because as a customer, I have been lied to by Greyhound.
Usually, it happens on holidays, when there aren’t enough buses to carry the passengers.
Apparently, these seasonal spikes in demand come as a complete surprise to Greyhound. Every damned year.
One Christmas in Toronto, as we lined up in a deep freeze for the bus, it was clear that not all the passengers were going to fit.
No problem. They assured us another bus was coming to take on the extra passengers. This was not, as it turned out, true, and we ended up spending the night in the crowded terminal.
The ticket agent had to be escorted out of the building by security. People were angry. They were stranded on Christmas, and they’d been lied to.
Last Thanksgiving, the same thing happened in Pembroke.
The bus for Ottawa, full, passed through. Don’t worry, we were told: There’s another bus coming in 15 minutes. As the passengers sat there for hours with their useless tickets, that estimate didn’t change. Any time anyone asked, another bus was coming in fifteen minutes.
Welcome to Godot Bus Lines. The bus is the only public transportation available in Pembroke.
VIA service was cut in the 1980s. I prevailed on my parents for a ride back to Ottawa. One passenger started getting a group together to raise $200 for a taxi. Now whole regions of the country, already without a choice, may be left without a ride. Bad dog, Greyhound.